New Study: Indian Cities Score Low in Walkability Ratings

Lack of pedestrian facilities in Indian cities lead to low walkability scores and points to the urgency with which policies must address this neglect. Photo by Satish Krishnamurthy.

The Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia) released a study that benchmarks the pedestrian infrastructure of six Indian cities. The publication, “Walkability in Indian Cities,” looks at walkability in Bhubaneshwar, Chennai, Indore, Pune, Rajkot and Surat. The study also contains pedestrian preference interviews from these cities and an assessment of current policies on pedestrians and walking environments, which includes discussions with stakeholders. Finally, the study also compares walkability across other Asian cities.

According to the study:

“Indian cities were built for walking and cycling. However, rapid motorization combined with limited attention to pedestrian facilities has inadvertently resulted in a decrease in the overall mode share for non-motorized transport. Strategies must be incorporated in order for people to reclaim the urban environment overrun by motor vehicles. Policies and investments provide an impetus to transform Indian cities, encourage pedestrianization and allow people to enjoy better mobility and quality of life.”

The study finds that pedestrian facilities are lacking and insufficient in Indian cities, especially within areas where they are the most needed, like areas with a high number of pedestrians and public transport options. A universal concern for all of the cities studied was also the lack of facilities for people with disabilities.

Out of a possible 100 points, the average walkability score of the six Indian cities was a 47, where residential areas received higher ratings and public transport terminals received lower ones. Pedestrian preference interviews revealed that neglecting pedestrian infrastructure can drive city inhabitants to motorization. According to the study, 60 percent of the respondents rated pedestrian facilities in their cities as either “bad” or “worst,” and 62 percent revealed that they would shift to motorized modes of transport if the walking environments in their cities do not improve.

Out of the six cities, Pune scored the highest with a rating of 54 out of 100. But in comparison to other Asian cities, the scores remain relatively low. Hong Kong, for example scored a 70 out of 100 for walkability.

The assessment of policies and institutions found a general lack of relevant initiatives that cater to the needs of pedestrians. “Because of the neglect, miniscule funds are allocated for pedestrian infrastructure and improperly used,” the report says.

Some suggestions from pedestrian interviewees include simple measures, like allocating clean footpaths without obstructions and reducing vehicular speeds at crossings. To improve walkability, the study provides several recommendations:

  • Improving institutional arrangements and creating dedicated institutional support for pedestrians;
  • Developing mandatory complete streets design guidelines;
  • Setting stringent walkability improvement targets including pedestrian mode share and pedestrian fatality reduction;
  • Conducting annual pedestrian benchmarks;
  • Integrating walkability to improve city plans;
  • Promoting applied research on walkability; and,
  • Making allies for improving walkability in India

Pedestrian infrastructure is not only important for road fatalities but also because it would serve a dual purpose in public health. “Improving the pedestrian facilities significantly reduces the shift from non-motorized transportation to two wheelers and cars, thereby minimizing traffic congestion and pollution emission that threatens public health,” the Clean Air Initiative explains.

Read the report here.

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