In a bustling metropolis like Mumbai, where every step tells a tale of urban life, the Walking Project (WP) has been silently working for the past 12 years to champion pedestrian rights and advocate for safer, more comfortable footpaths. Founded as a pedestrian advocacy organisation, WP has been actively engaging citizens in a transformative experience through community walks.
The community walk initiative is designed to acquaint citizens with the Indian Roads Congress (IRC) guidelines governing the design of pedestrian spaces. During these walks, participants not only explore the existing footpath widths but also delve into various factors affecting the pedestrian experience – from the surface quality and encroachment to comfort, accessibility, shade, air quality, and noise levels.
Discussions during the walks span a wide spectrum, touching on urbanism, transport statistics, policy shortcomings, and more. During a recent community walk in Dadar, the observations ranged from poor pedestrian dispersal outside the railway station to encroachments. Surprisingly, even on some of the widest footpaths, poor surface quality prevailed. Some of them exceeded the IRC-recommended dimensions of 3-4mt.
Modern features, such as proper slopes, kerb ramps, quality bollards, and tactile paving components for visually impaired pedestrians, were noted in certain areas, indicating a step in the right direction. WP program manager Vedant Mhatre said that their walks in Dadar led them to propose several improvements, including a more effective passenger dispersal system at Dadar railway station's eastern exit, aligning it with the pedestrian-centric models found at Bandra or Thane stations.
Some others were parking enforcement, curb extensions, and continuously raised crossings. As Mumbai continues to evolve, initiatives like WP serve as beacons of change, prompting a collective rethink on the importance of pedestrian-friendly spaces. The Dadar walk not only highlighted existing challenges but also pointed towards a potential transformation with pragmatic improvements on the horizon.