Why pedestrians prefer risking lives over using skywalks in Bengaluru

With long flights of stairs, dysfunctional lifts, and even criminals lurking around, skywalks in Bengaluru have few users. These multi-crore projects are justified only if safety and convenience of users is taken seriously

According to the Bengaluru Traffic Police, an average of four vehicle-caused accidents occur in the city every day. An alarming 20 percent of these are fatal. These happen for several reasons – pedestrians crossing wide junctions where there’s little coordination, driver belligerence, and disregard of traffic rules. People with disabilities and the elderly are left at an unimaginable disadvantage, with only a few seconds to cross the road.

The obvious question here is – what about the skywalks?

Skywalks exist for the sole purpose of pedestrian safety, but are rarely used. For the average Bengalurean to incorporate skywalks in their daily commute, these would have to be as convenient as possible.

Convenience would include minimising time and physical effort, and adequate lighting and safety. Moreover, it would require immaculate planning – the skywalks would have to be as close to bus stops as possible. And they should be located in areas where pedestrians cannot cross the road because of endless stretches of moving traffic in the absence of signals. These aspects have been ignored in the case of skywalks in Bengaluru.

Dysfunctional or unsafe elevators in skywalks

The elderly and people with disabilities can consider using the skywalk only if it includes an elevator facility. While there are skywalks that do have elevators, a majority of them are either nonfunctional or extremely unreliable. Also, frequent power-cuts make them unsafe.

In late September last year, three civilians found themselves stuck in the faulty elevator of a skywalk, ironically in front of the BBMP headquarters. With no way of getting help, they were rescued after half an hour when passers-by heard them and contacted BBMP officials. This incident reflects lack of maintenance and safety measures.

Another example is the Domlur junction skywalk, a project that cost the taxpayer Rs 2.5 crore. This skywalk has elevators that were reportedly disabled within three days of inauguration, to “prevent misuse”.

In February 2018, BBMP announced it would upgrade all existing skywalks with elevators for pedestrian comfort. The Rs 10 crore estimated for this upgradation would be a huge waste of taxpayer money if the elevators are not kept functional and well-maintained.

Poor lighting, muggings and other safety concerns

There are also several security concerns on skywalk usage. Poor lighting during the evenings, occupation by local idlers, instances of muggings and frequent appropriation of the passages as urinals strike an aversion to using skywalks.

On the Manyata Tech Park skywalk, several instances of pickpocketing have been reported. At the Kempegowda bus stop in Majestic, the terminal of the skywalk is reportedly swarming with sex workers, making the infrastructure off-putting despite extensive planning and the installation of a disability-friendly ramp. The scarce usage, in turn, hinders the prospect of regular maintenance and better ambience.

Pedestrians jaywalking despite skywalks

Skywalks also involve the burden of physical exertion – it is much easier for most pedestrians to cross busy roads than to climb a large flight of stairs, even if it means risking their safety. Instances of jaywalking are extremely common near Manyata Tech Park and Sophia’s High School despite an existing pedestrian crossing facility here.

The High Grounds skywalk in particular has an exasperating 65 steps one way, making it inaccessible, or unappealing at the very least. Pedestrians who cross the road by trying to jump across the median are increasingly contributing to accidents in Bengaluru.

Apart from median accidents, the poor planning of skywalks often make footpaths discontinuous, adding to the risk of pedestrian accidents. Planning authorities cannot consider acquiring space from the carriageway as it would create traffic bottlenecks on the already-congested roads.

Better research and planning needed

The common theme across most of these problems is a seeming lack of research. While BBMP claims that skywalks are built based off of data in feasibility reports, the physical dimensions of existing skywalks have a one-size-fits-all approach. This is a serious oversight.

While some skywalks – like that in Domlur – are severely underutilised, there are roads that desperately need some sort of crossing facility. An example is Residency Road. With long stretches of traffic and no signals, pedestrians here have no choice but to dash across the road.

As skywalks are now built under PPP (public-private partnership), there is always the issue of strategic funding by bidders. They may prefer building skywalks in locations where these are not necessarily needed but would yield maximum advertisement revenue. Hoardings also reduce visibility from the outside, making skywalks a hub for miscreants, with numerous chain-snatching incidents reported.

Many criticise the BBMP for building skywalks for advertisement returns and not pedestrian safety. A zebra crossing system, they say, will be a far cheaper measure to implement, and infinitely more convenient for pedestrians. The obvious issues here are lack of discipline and the inefficiency of pedestrian-operated traffic lights.

BBMP has announced plans to build more skywalks across the city this year. They also plan to install CCTV cameras in every skywalk for security purposes. While cameras are a step in the right direction, surveillance needs to be taken care of, and it is yet to be seen how this will be implemented. Building skywalks in the city can only be justified if the concerns regarding safety and convenience are taken more seriously.

[This post was first published by the Takshashila Institution and has been republished with minor edits. The original can be found here.]

Comments:

  1. Rakshith says:

    Proper planning is must skywalks are made where people don’t walk often, we need to do proper survey of people crossing and make skywalk there, i myself have been victim of theft during night hours, the skywalk aren’t safe too for girls, where we we find eve teasers.

  2. Veer says:

    Best solution is to find better citizen.The one, who don’t use excuses or playing victim card for crossing the road.

  3. Chacko says:

    Pedestrian crossings with traffic control lights will be more effective. Monitored by auto cams that notify the car owner by SMS through registered mobile number without any manual intervention. Heavy fines like RS. 3,000/- for offence

  4. Ram says:

    First raise height of the divider on the roads.
    Instead of lift, install stairs escalator.
    To change the current mindset of pedestrians, deploy traffic cops or wardens at the spots where most pedestrians cross the road.

  5. Subash BV says:

    With all the comments the important suggestion is the CCTV preferably with sounds pickup. Connect this to the nearest police station and monitor 24/7. Give feedback to improve it further, other wise a permanent police Man has to be deployed which will work other way round. Put the state first.

  6. B N SRINATH says:

    All the skywalks are only money spinners. If a survey is done, the truth will be out
    that none of the skywalks are being used by the pedestrians. Instead underground crossovers with a mix of escalletors and steps will be the right answer and cost effective.

  7. Ashwin says:

    “Skywalks exist for the sole purpose of pedestrian safety” – wrong! Skywalks exist so motorists can speed through and not have to waste even a few seconds to allow human beings to cross the road. That’s what they are – human beings. Calling them pedestrians is an easy way to diminish their humanity.

    We invented machines so they can do the work that we had to do earlier. But here, the machine, and the human inside the machine, is placed on such a pedestal that a few seconds of their time is more valuable than a human life. Other human beings, considered inferior as they are not inside a vehicle, are required to waste effort and time of climbing up 15-25 metres and climbing down the same distance to traverse a distance of about 10 metres. I don’t know why that doesn’t sound ludicrous to the author of this piece, sitting smug behind her steering wheel. Skywalks (what a fancy name for an elevated footpath) should be the rarest of rare exceptions, on a few high speed highways on the outskirts of cities. Building one inside a city should be considered a failure of planning.

  8. Anonymous says:

    This article only seems to blame BBMP. While I agree that they could do better, in many cases citizens are just lazy. And most skywalk elevators that I’ve seen work well.

  9. NARAYANAN says:

    Sir Please understand, there is an locality in East Bengaluru, in ward 52 of Kr pura, Bbmp called Bhattarahalli. It’s located on Old Madras road. There is no Pedestrian Crossing for the residents , imagine crossing a 6 lane Road with unplanned service roads, haphazard parking of vehicles, accidents occuring in frequently. Road user s consist of School children, Blind people who reside in Seegehalli, Senior citizens, apart from general public. Thanks to callous Bbmp, Police Department, and political parties who have failed the common Man. They don’t understand What a pedestrian crossing is, and least of all the pedestrian Right to safe passage.I have explained the situation to all stake holders. I again request and remind these guys to assess and address the problem

  10. Mukesh says:

    There should be underground pass to cross the roads,it is more convenient as well as cost effective.

  11. Varadarajan raman says:

    In a larger context, city planning must put pedestrians and footpaths on par with water, electricity and clean lines. We must accept that Bengaluru is an unwalkable city, whether for the elderly, women or children, for anyone. There is a complete loss of duniya, while walking on the street. One feels like a defenceless rat caught on the outside. A true global city must be pedestrian friendly. Footpaths are integral to the complete transport and mobility solution that we desperately seek. We have to do with non existing footpaths or encroached ones. Take Indiranagar 12th main as a representative example. Commercial establishments have made this entre stretch of footpath unusable. Footpaths are our birthright!

  12. Ganesh Jayadevan says:

    Good article. The government should start thinking deeply about problem-solution fit. Many governments have adopted design thinking for policy formulation and implementation to ensure better delivery of services.

    We need people who are not caught in election funding trap and think of doing good.

  13. B.Nagaraj says:

    Like underground pass the registered vendors may be allowed by constructing double wide sky scrappers with compulsory Elevators. After 6pm sky scrappers are safe than under passes on security reason.The vendors will bare the maintainance of elevators. Then only there will not be any traffic problems.

  14. Hareesh T D says:

    There is one more reason for not using skywalks. Similar to majestic, we see call girls standing on skywalks waiting for customers. This happened near Recidency Road. I had to cross road instead of facing this annoyance

  15. Manjunatha Pattaabhi Shastry says:

    Because public know the sky walks are built to send them straight to Sky. Most of them are unauthorised,built for advertising revenue, not for the public convenience. By the tax payers money by the corrupt BBMP Clout. How many chores did each MP, MLA, and corporate minted?

  16. bangalorean says:

    Due to BBMP’s lousiness and greed, Skywalks in Bangalore are covered with big banner ads on both sides. Making them low-lit and unsafe for pedestrians. In some instances, I saw beggars using them to rest or taking shelter during hot or rainy days.

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