Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chennai: Footpaths are not meant for walking?

In many parts of Chennai there are paved footpaths. But most people avoid them and walk on the road. Lack of safety consciousness? Not really. Pedestrians avoid them for different reasons.

First of all, the kerbs are too high from the road levels – almost 18 inches at many places. Getting on to them is not easy, particularly for the elderly. And they are the people who have to be extra careful while walking on the road.

Then, at every 30 feet or so, there is an entrance to a building. The pathway does not taper down at such spots. Therefore, one has to step down to the road level and climb up again after the gate. It could be good exercise but not friendly to people who are in a hurry. The photo below explains the point.

Even if one takes up the challenge, there are problems. The other day I found a two-feet-high boundary demarcation on a footpath as an extension of the compound wall between two buildings. You can step over it if the watchman and his cronies are not sitting on it.

Another impediment I noticed was a three-feet-wide concrete name board of a resident right across the 4.5 feet walkway, at a height of about four feet. One could neither stride over nor duck under it.

Why are the kerbs so high? I don’t think that international road specifications demand such huge concrete blocks. Is there some particular reason why Chennai opts for them? See below a picture from Cubbon Park, Bangalore, originally published in my post Bangalore: Of a club, a park and a Chief Secretary couple

Let us look at the cost of the kerb stones used at Chennai and Bangalore. In the case of the former, the outlay would be more than double. It is not only the price of the input materials for the concrete blocks.

We must also consider the higher transporting and handling charges for the larger pieces. A truckload of the smaller ones would cover much more road length. Then again, much more volume of sand is needed to fill in the high footpaths and considerably longer time is taken to complete the work.

It is clear that that less elevated walkways have several advantages. Why not stretch the available funds to cover more areas and benefit the pedestrians by choosing low-level footpaths?

That is, unless there is other compelling reasons like local conditions to follow the present practice.

1 comment:

Sunita said...

You're lucky to at least have footpaths! In Mumbai they're taken over by hawkers or pavement dwellers. And yes, they're as high as the ones you have in Chennai. I think they're either preparing for the next floods or trying to make Olympic athletes out of us.