In a first, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the traffic police, in partnership with the World Resources Institute (WRI) India Ross Centre, have initiated and designed a ‘Safe School Zone’ at Byculla’s Mirza Ghalib Road on a pilot basis. The initiative aims at identifying ways of providing students safer access to school. Mirza Ghalib Road in the city’s E-ward (Byculla) is home to two schools – the Christ Church School and St Agnes High School.
On Wednesday, the traffic police, the BMC, a few experts and local citizens came together to initiate the trial using paint, barricades and cones. The design solutions include demarcation using signage, road markings, providing designated areas for walking and waiting, multi-utility zones that include pick-up and drop-off areas, child-friendly spaces with playful elements and a vibrant pedestrian crossing. The trial using low-cost material will aid in undertaking feedback from the neighbourhood, before making it permanent on-ground.
The ‘Safer Access to Schools’ project was undertaken under the Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety (BIGRS). It aims to create child-friendly and walkable school zones in Mumbai. The trial includes testing design solutions that make the road walkable, barrier-free, safer, and more vibrant for all road users, especially children.
Kelly Larson of Bloomberg Philanthropies said, “Designing streets for people, and not cars, plays a critical role in increasing mobility and safety for all citizens.” Larson said the organisation is proud to partner with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai as they continue to expand efforts for safer streets and safer mobility, particularly among the most vulnerable road users – children. “The Safe School Zone initiative will save lives and serve as a model for other cities throughout India,” Larson added.
In October 2019, WRI India had conducted a workshop with the students of Christ Church School to understand what they would like to see around their school. This included a walk around to understand what they like/dislike and visualisation exercises where students were asked to add elements of their choice on the street. WRI India also conducted stakeholder consultations and surveys to understand the mode of commute, time spent by children in commute and the challenges they faced.
Rohit Tak, manager of Sustainable Cities and Transport, WRI India, said, “Almost 57 per cent of the parents had said that the streets around their school precinct is not safe for children owing to several reasons, including lack of quality footpaths and vehicular conflicts.”
Tak added that children are more prone to risks compared to adults given their smaller size, cognitive development and perception of risk. “Our plan looks at a safer, child-friendly street that will make their school-going journey comfortable and enjoyable,” he said.
Manish R Valanju, Assistant Municipal Commissioner, E-Ward (Byculla, Mazgaon, Agripada, Nagpada), said, "We will assess the trial, incorporate feedback from all the stakeholders, including the traffic police, school management and the local community, before preparing a plan for permanent implementation."
Rais Shaikh, Samajwadi Party corporator from Byculla and MLA from Bhiwandi, said, "In Mumbai, even if the school is within walking distance, many parents/guardians take their vehicles out as it’s not safe for children to walk on these roads. This trial will showcase how making a street safer for children will make it safer for all road users."
The National Disaster Management Guidelines – School Safety Policy 2016, issued by the National Disaster Management Authority, the Government of India, emphasises on school safety. It is defined as “the creation of a safe environment for children, starting from their homes to their schools and back”. It includes safety from natural disasters, violence, man-made risks, transportation and other related emergencies, pandemics, and environmental threats, among others. It asks schools to conduct safety audits to identify hazards outside the school premises, including road safety.
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