Footbridges lying unused, but KMC plans nine more

September 24, 2013

Saikat Ray & Krishnendu Bandyopadhyay, TNN |

KOLKATA: A spurt in traffic volume has made crossing city roads riskier than ever. Foot over bridges are there at various intersections, but pedestrians prefer to hit the roads instead of giving that extra effort and climb the stairs. That, however, hasn’t deterred the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) to plan more footbridges. In fact, it is planning to join hands with private agencies to build nine more over bridges in the city. Each bridge will have four escalators to encourage more pedestrians to use them. However, suggestions of elevators for the aged and people with disabilities have been turned down by the civic authorities.

On Monday, Atin Ghosh, member, mayor-in-council overseeing the KMC engineering department, and senior officials held a meeting with representatives of four city-based hoarding agencies who have responded to the ‘expression of interest’. “Each foot over bridge will cost Rs 4.5 crore. We will sign a build-operate-transfer agreement with these agencies for a period of 30 years. They will invest in the project and in lieu, enjoy advertising rights for 30 years,” Ghosh said.

However, the question that lies ahead is whether these footbridges will find any takers among the pedestrians. A TOI survey revealed that the footbridges that dot various spots of the city at present have been largely unutilized. Despite boasting of an elevator and escalator, the foot over bridge near Bijon Setu across Rashbehari Avenue had very few pedestrians. Even during peak hours, less than 5% of people use the footbridge compared to those who cross the surface road. The situation isn’t any different elsewhere in the city.

Of the 11 footbridges that have come up in the city and its periphery, barely five were in use. These include five the ones in Ultadanga, Golaghata, Lake Town, Gariahat and Dhakuria. The rest lie deserted, with a couple of them even encroached by drug addicts.

Traffic engineers blame wrong site selection for the under -utilization of foot over bridges. Chief traffic and transportation engineer Ajay Das said, “Unless there is a continuous median divider, it is very difficult to make pedestrians use a footbridge. People will tend to cross the road along the surface road as it would be faster and easier than taking a footbridge.”

According to a traffic and transport planner, the footbridges right on road intersections are bound to fail, because there cannot be a median divider.

The three-point crossing of Ekdalia Road, Radhakumud Mukherjee Sarani and Rashbehari Avenue is a proof of this. Due to the absence of a continuous median divider, pedestrians merrily take the surface road. “While a child takes the escalator, the mother insists on taking the surface road. If we intervene, she asks us not to bother her,” said a traffic constable.

Some of the nine footbridges that KMC has planned may meet the same fate. While the footbridge near the Gariahat flyover is likely to be a success because pedestrian access across the road is restricted, the one on Rashbehari Avenue and Sarat Bose Road crossing is likely to fail. On Monday afternoon, the TOI team found madness at this intersection. People waved down cars midway to cross the roads while others strolled along the road. Even mothers with children in their laps walked with ease on these roads. Moulali and Mallickbazar crossings painted a similar picture.

But the civic top brass is undeterred. “We have taken note of this problem and planned four ramps to cover four corners. This will encourage the pedestrians to use the footbridge,” said Ghosh.

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