Walkability For Healthier City

The CO2 emission per capita in India is low compared to the world average. Transport sector is one of the major contributors to CO2 emission. In India the emission from transport sector is growing gradually and particularly impacting the Cities including having negative impact on health due to air pollution, congestion resulting in increased travel time of city dwellers, accidents, and impact on city’s economy. The GHG emission from transport can be reduced only by promoting sustainable urban transport.


The Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP), run by the Ministry of Urban and Housing Development, is a multidimensional project commenced in 2010 to achieve transport accessibility for everyone, containing impacts of transport led air pollution, GHG emission and noise pollution on health and safety, shift towards means of urban transport that are both environmentally and economically sustainable. The SUTP has been implemented through two major Capacity Building programmes for training and professional development of transport professionals and production of manuals and guidelines for urban transport institutions, systems and design processes and project development and delivery of innovative sustainable urban transport systems in the demonstration cities of Pimpri Chinchwad (Pune), Indore (Madhya Pradesh), Naya Raipur (Chhattisgarh), and Mysore and Hubli Dharwad (Karnataka). One of the key features of SUTP is to promote Non-Motorized Transport (NMT) including walking, cycling and cycle rickshaw.

Non-motorized transport is not dependent on scare fossil fuel and have little impact on fossil fuel and on emission. Walking has health benefits like reduction in cardiovascular diseases. Unfortunately, in India the rate of cardiovascular diseases is very high and is the highest killer, but the risk of heart disease varies across states, with wealthier and more urbanised states having higher risk, according to a new study by Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI)

For the past few years I have been wondering which city in India is pedestrian friendly. Baring a few specific locations within cities I can’t find many. For example, in national capital except Lutyens’ Delhi I have not come across a barrier free continuous stretch of pavement in the city. And it is the similar story practically in all our cities. Million of investments are made by government agencies to create pedestrian friendly infrastructure but still walking in our city pavements is a big challenge.  Most city footpaths are not constructed as per the urban street design guidelines. Beside vehicles parked in footpaths, use of footpaths by cyclists, motor cyclists and encroachments by hawkers, broken pavements, many obstacles like lamp and signage posts in the footpaths etc. makes walking a real challenge in our cities.  Nearly 20%26% of footpath length in National Capital is obstructed due to garbage, potholes, personalized gardening as per a recent study conducted by the CSIR-Central Road Research Institute (CRRI). Another 5% obstructions are due to toilets constructed in pavements, poles, trees etc. and nearly 14%-36% of footpath space is occupied by hawkers and parked vehicles. Many a time we blame pedestrian for standing or walking on main city roads, but it is unfair to blame them as there is little space on the pavements for pedestrian walking besides being unsafe. There’s very little thought given to cross roads in Indian cities. No doubt investments are being made in all major cities on foot over bridges, but these are mostly unused or used by only a few. Our city roads and footpaths are unsafe for visually impaired and for differently abled. As per WHO report poor city road infrastructure, failure to comply with speed limits, growing drinking and driving habits, refusal to use proper motorcycle helmets etc. are among the main reasons contributing to road related accident fatalities. Together with cyclists, the pedestrians account for bulk of deaths on Indian roads. India has the dubious distinction of highest road related deaths despite having laws and regulations. With over 1,00,000 deaths annually, India has overtaken China. Around 13% of the victims from road-related deaths are pedestrians in India as compared to 15% of accidents from passenger cars and taxis and 27% of motorized riders two-or-three wheelers.

The city roads are not only for motor vehicles. The urban planners have to think seriously how we make the city roads and pavements pedestrian friendly. Road safety experts stress on the

need to provide continuous, barrier-free and disabled-friendly pavements, especially on arterial roads since the traffic volume is high.

Today, Indian urban spaces remain no-walking zones. Walkable cities are easier and more attractive to live in, making for happier, healthier citizens. Health, prosperity, and sustainability go hand in hand. Walkable environments also encourage social interaction. A well-designed neighborhood encourages social and personal interaction which builds social trust in the community.

In tourist destinations in India, the walkable environs are appalling. Lack of walkable infrastructure, like in the UNESCO heritage site Hampi, have allowed tourist vehicles to flourish which not only charges an exorbitant fee from the travelers but also ensure monumental damage to the age-old historical site.

Government’s Smart City Mission is in the right direction as our city needs quality infrastructure and smart way of managing our infrastructure. Significant numbers of identified projects are in transport sector including a few non-motorized transport projects like walking, cycling etc. This is in right direction for promoting sustainable transport. Studies conducted have found that  walking and cycling can help in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by substituting motorized travel, particularly on short trips.  Government agencies must ensure safe and barrier free pedestrian infrastructure as walking helps in last mile connectivity for our city dwellers to avail public transport facilities and thereby promote low carbon transport in Indian cities. Policies must be framed, and adequate investment provided in our urban cities to improve barrier free pedestrian infrastructure which will help urban population better mobility and healthier life.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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