Indian code for the Pedestrian Facilities 5- IRC 103-1988, recommends following norms: Footpath on both sides. Minimum width of 1.5m or 5ft on both sides. Dead width of 0.5m or 1.64 to 2ft and 1m or 3.28 to 3.5ft to be added to footpath along houses, buildings, trees, fences and commercial or shopping areas respectively. Footpath width to be increased in cases of bus stops and recreational areas.
Unfortunately, most Indian cities are not that walkable. There're broken, unpaved, discontinuous footpaths, lengthy foot overbridges and roads designed only for high-speed traffic. Although a large %age of all commuting "trips" are pedestrian trips, the cities score miserably when it comes to pedestrian infrastructure for pedestrians. Approval should be denied to any road project in any Indian city or town which don't have adequate facilities for pedestrians.
The rising pollution levels in Indian cities / towns is a concern. A large %age of a typical Indian city walks and almost an equal %age walks and then takes a bus but civic bodies / governments unfortunately do not plan for this lot. All/Most policies are for the cars. There should be legislations according to which pedestrians must be given priority in all projects being planned in the Indian cities, otherwise they shouldn't be cleared.
All projects abroad are first put through a public scrutiny. But in most Indian cities / towns even the numbers that form the basis of planning are not made available to anyone. At present, the planning for every Indian road project starts with the number of Passenger Car Units (PCUs), an indication of the importance given to vehicles.
Pedestrian facilities need to be integrated into every project. Everything, except for work, should be within walking distance of every citizen of an Indian city/town. The norm should be to have pedestrians crossing at grade and other vehicles going up or down that level.
One of the major challenges is to keep cars and bus off the footpaths. This unauthorised parking eats on space created for pedestrians. At several/most places, walking space has/is been/being surrendered to parking of cars.
The main points of complaints include uneven surface, potholes, urinals, height of the pavement that makes them walk on the road. Unfortunately, obsession with seamless, signal free travel for motorized vehicles through flyovers, expressways and elevated ways, is disrupting direct shortest routes of the walkers and increasing distances and travel time for walkers. Pedestrians face policy neglect.
Most localities of Indian cities unfortunately do not have superlative international best practices / qualities. Worst are the localities of poor people that have high pedestrian volume but worst infrastructure. Neighbourhoods of poor score the worst as India's urban poor are too poor to even afford a bus ride for daily commuting. Often the only option for them is to walk. Policies are too weak to protect pedestrians and their right to walk. Walkways are victims of policy neglect.
Only pedestrians in Delhi account for 47% of fatalities in the city. The walkers remain invisible in the maze of motorized traffic that chokes our roads. They walk in extremely unsafe and hostile conditions, in constant conflict with motorized traffic and are easy victims to crashes and accidents. This is extremely worrying at a time when the cities are in the grip of paralysing mobility crisis and pollution.
Roads will have to be planned with more space for walking. The current engineering guidelines for pedestrian facilities are outdated and inadequate. Even the basic clarity on height of the pavements is missing. Steep heights of footpaths make them inaccessible. Even the minimum width is not maintained as walking space is chipped away for creating more space for motorized vehicles.
Focus on signal free and seamless flow of motorized vehicles is inciting jay walking and increasing risk of accidents. Indian walkers are disenchanted.
India does have a plethora of laws and byelaws related to road safety, road infrastructure, pedestrian protection, and urban planning that have bearing on pedestrians. But laws are fragmented and do not add up to effectively promote pedestrianisation or protect pedestrians and their rights with any degree of stringency.
Communities are not involved in decision making on road infrastructure. In many US and European cities policies are creating walkable neighbourhoods and fully pedestrian spaces. Some global examples are Kaufingerstrafe in Munich, Nanjing Road in Shanghai.
Copenhagen has done extensive pedestrianisation. Zurich and Oxford streets are good examples. Buenos Aires, Curitiba, Sai Paolo, Shanghai have begun to create car free shopping streets. Studies show pedestriansation of shopping areas has positive effects on sales.
Legal reforms have also been initiated to pedestrianise as well as to reduce traffic volumes. In London, Road Traffic Reduction Act allows authorities to reduce traffic levels or their rate of growth in targeted area to reduce congestion and improve air quality.
San Francisco has enforced Better Street Policy. New York city is promoting pedestrian infrastructure. In Auckland Land Transport (Road Users) Rule stops motorists from stopping, or parking on a footpath and pedestrians have to be given right of the way.