Thursday, February 9

Middle ground for pedestrian

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Some of Calcutta’s wider and notoriously chaotic crossroads are to have elevated platforms on the zebra crossing for the safety of pedestrians stranded in the middle either for their own fault or because of disproportionate traffic-signal cycles.

Each of the 15 intersections chosen for the project will have a concrete platform rising six inches from the road surface, providing pedestrians an island to take refuge in should traffic resume before they are safely on the other side.

The intersections at Gariahat, Ballygunge Phari, KC Das, Dorina, Girish Park and Shyambazar are among those that will have what the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) intends to call pedestrian islands.

At the Dorina crossing, people going towards BC Roy Market from the side of Metropolitan Building are invariably in a losing race against the traffic light. “There are many such intersections where the road is so wide that pedestrians often fail to reach the other end before the signal turns green. People caught in the middle with cars whizzing past them on either side is a common sight,” a police officer said.

The elevated platforms will be painted black-and-yellow or white-and-blue so that motorists spot them from far.

Vineet Goyal, the additional commissioner of police (I), said the decision to have pedestrian islands in the middle of intersections was part of a larger strategy to make the roads safer for pedestrians. “We have been doing a lot of work to make pedestrian movement safer and better organised. We have installed drop gates at a few places and achieved some success. Building these islands is an extension of that.”

The roads that will have pedestrian islands have high traffic volumes and are so wide that it is often impossible to cross over at one go, especially if someone does not start the moment the signal turns red. In a city where pedestrian discipline is almost non-existent, the impact of these in-built challenges doubles.

“If pedestrians get 10 seconds to go across an intersection and someone starts after five seconds have already gone by, there is no way that person will get to the other side before traffic resumes. Being stranded in the middle of the road when the signal changes is dangerous,” Goyal said.

Jawaharlal Nehru Road in Esplanade has traffic approaching from SN Banerjee Road and Rani Rashmoni Avenue even as pedestrians cross over east to west and vice-versa. Some vehicles from Rani Rashmoni Road take a right turn towards Park Street, impeding pedestrian movement.

By the time pedestrians get the chance to proceed without the fear of being hit, only a few seconds are left for north-south traffic to resume. This makes it almost impossible for a pedestrian to go from one end to the other on that stretch of road without flirting with danger.

According to a civic engineer, the width of Jawaharlal Nehru Road at the Dorina intersection is around 100ft. “We conducted a joint inspection with the police and selected the spots where pedestrian islands can be built,” he said.

The length and width of the islands will depend on the space available at a particular intersection. The average dimensions will be 10 x 5ft, which can accommodate between six and eight persons.

The CMC aims to have the proposed islands ready for use in two months. Each of these will cost around Rs 50,000 to build, the engineer said.

But will the police be able to ensure that pedestrians stand only on the platforms? “A large number of people do not even use the zebra crossings. If they still refuse to be compliant, the purpose of having platforms will be lost,” an officer said.

Source: The Telegraph

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