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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A country where the majority of people are pedestrians and yet, life is made so difficult for us. We can't walk in peace without having to dodge traffic. We can't cross roads in peace without avoiding being run over.

The govt needs to come out with minimum requirements for all roads and get builders to adhere to them. They should include footpaths with minimum width requirement, clear markings of lanes and ped crossings, a lane for hawkers to set up etc. It's one of the reasons why India looks so backward in comparison to other countries like China - the standards of the pedestrian and general road infrastructure. And footpaths are also good for business as people can spend their time window-shopping and browsing shops instead of dodging traffic. And traffic will flow more freely in the absence of pedestrians in the middle. Need some standards to be defined instead of the random construction of roads by builders.
 

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A country where the majority of people are pedestrians and yet, life is made so difficult for us. We can't walk in peace without having to dodge traffic. We can't cross roads in peace without avoiding being run over.

The govt needs to come out with minimum requirements for all roads and get builders to adhere to them. They should include footpaths with minimum width requirement, clear markings of lanes and ped crossings, a lane for hawkers to set up etc. It's one of the reasons why India looks so backward in comparison to other countries like China...
Inner China has the same challenge in the old parts of historic towns. The narrow streets you see without markings in India is what you find in old towns and historic inner parts of cities worldwide. Go to Kyoto Japan, or historic towns of Italy or France or Switzerland. Or Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Thailand, Burma, and others. In the developing nations worldwide, you find the same narrow streets, same chaos above (hanging wires) and same chaos below (street confusion, and traffic mess).

The problem is not modern builders, nor laws. The issue is people already live along these narrow streets, you cannot tear them down to build new pedestrian lanes, a lane for hawkers, a lane for this or that.

In old towns of Japan and Italy, they have converted streets into one way traffic (look for the blue arrow) or pedestrian only streets. This allows marking the edges of the narrow streets into pedestrian parts. I am linking Japanese situation because the population density, heritage and culture in Japan is as rich and somewhat similar as in India.

The challenge in India in many cases is land acquisition laws. Roads are already choked with traffic, there are more motorcycles and cycles and autorickshaws and cars and buses than the road capacity. If you take the same road and slice it into thinner lanes, where will the passengers in these buses, cycles, motorcycles, and the rest go? Everyone will break the rules because no one wants to wait 6 hours in a line every day to get home or to the hospital or the train station or wherever.

India also has the hyperactive, generally one-sided, biased media that alleges with sky-is-falling exploitation headlines that "no one wants to sell their land for better-designed infrastructures such as a road" type of propaganda or whichever political side is paying the journalist or the paper owner. You can pay the newspaper to publish an advertisement, or pay the newspaper to publish propaganda (also called sponsored news or sponsored article). They print photos of 15 paid demonstrators and politically active group, but never the photos of the street chaos that affects 150,000 people every day or illegal shops and demand action.

There is hope. Once major highways and metros come up because of the political party voted in to build the infrastructure, streamlining slowly but steadily follows. This is because people then have a choice to move away from dense old parts to new locations. Schools, universities, hospitals and such essential services move into better and more efficient locations. As the traffic load in inner old urban area reduces, rejuvenation and redesign typically starts.
 

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Some 2016 photos from Shanghai old town are below. Shanghai is amazing in many parts as the city has expanded with government providing land for the city expansion and sponsoring a massive build out. These show the old parts of Shanghai, as it used to be and in some parts still is. Inner China is a lot more like these.

Old street

Messy wires
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Hi Philebus, old streets I can understand. But the problem in India is with the latest modern developments, very few of which have any footpaths at all and very narrow roads given the builder need to maximize land for construction and complete incompetence from the BMC.

Here's a new Shanghai development for instance:



And here's one in Powai, Mumbai - India's premier city:



Notice the lack of footpaths forcing vehicles, parking, hawkers and pedestrians to share the same road. Not to mention the general chaos given the lack of markings and road discipline. The BMC is the primary responsible party for this mess of course.

There's a pedestrian crowd in the Shangai picture too but they're safely and happily separated from vehicular traffic using footpaths and a nice overhead arc that crosses the huge junction.
 

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India has been slower than China in its pace of infrastructure improvement. But don't confuse Shanghai or similar mega-cities to be what you see in inner China towns.

Indian cities also have examples of traffic and pedestrians separation in new developments.

Chennai

Chandigarh

Hyderabad

The new developments in Mumbai, Bengaluru and other places do include pedestrian path, usually raised or otherwise protected from traffic.

India does need to do more. Skywalks are an option, if properly designed to respect the needs of the elderly and the disabled. Taking care of the pedestrians reduces the stress to drivers as well, improves the traffic flow.

The other problem one sees is the near-permanent pile of trash on streets. These trash piles encroach on pedestrian space. Developed nations have a mechanized street cleaning service. One person can help clean up much much more road and street surface area per hour than what a person with a broom can.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
I've noticed that new urban developments and new road laying still isn't using wide footpaths. The government should introduce a compulsory road standard when builders build a road. There should be a minimum width and a minimum footpath width and only after that should plots be sold. Otherwise, we are going to see the same problems for pedestrians as we see in the the Western suburbs: no footpaths, and a horrible walking experience where one can't even walk to the nearest store without having to constantly dodge traffic. And forget letting kids walk by themselves.

Walking is healthy, environmentally friendly and cheap. And it's great for business. And we should be making it as easy as possible in our cities.
 
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I live in Poland, and I feel so safe while walking here. My city of residence has wide footpaths everywhere, and car drivers respect pedestrians if you are crossing the road. I felt so 'special' as a pedestrian when I came here, after spending all of my life navigating Indian streets.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Yes, I think it's also a major reason Indian cities look underdeveloped and chaotic.
 

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A country where the majority of people are pedestrians and yet, life is made so difficult for us. We can't walk in peace without having to dodge traffic. We can't cross roads in peace without avoiding being run over.

The govt needs to come out with minimum requirements for all roads and get builders to adhere to them. They should include footpaths with minimum width requirement, clear markings of lanes and ped crossings, a lane for hawkers to set up etc. It's one of the reasons why India looks so backward in comparison to other countries like China - the standards of the pedestrian and general road infrastructure. And footpaths are also good for business as people can spend their time window-shopping and browsing shops instead of dodging traffic. And traffic will flow more freely in the absence of pedestrians in the middle. Need some standards to be defined instead of the random construction of roads by builders.
Walking is great and all but it doesn't help transport goods. Basically Indian cities have to deal with competing needs. Servicing current needs of pedestrians with future requirements of road traffic. To add to the mess is severe space constraints. You can't have everything, so you choose what is necessary for today and the next 30 to 50 years.

With respect to standards, I strongly disagree. India has way too many standards, many of them are woefully outdated and there's a very rigid bureaucracy. What India needs is design principles and design templates. With that you can have local officials spearhead local street interventions. Not every place requires pedestrian pathways, not every place needs vehicles. There are some pretty good interventions that was implemented with Smart cities - Chappan at Indore, Commercial street in Bangalore and Chandi Chowk in Delhi. Indian cities more such interventions. In addition to that, a lot of residential areas like multifamily homes in suburban Chennai or Bangalore needs blacktopping and traffic restrictions. That should resolve a significant issues not just for pedestrians but for everyone

More standards = more bureaucracy.
 
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