To walk, cycle or drive? Unfortunately, that is not a difficult question to answer here in India, but it does provide a good starting point for my “Exploring Bangalore” Series, where I will share my discoveries as I slowly come to know the city.
When I reach a new city I love to explore by hitting the streets and wandering past cafes, markets, parks and old buildings.
Unfortunately, to do so in India can sometimes mean taking your life into your own hands. For the most part, the roads are congested, the air polluted and the footpaths are often broken, covered in street stalls and parked motorcycles or even non-existent. And of course the cows are there just as an added challenge! There are a lot of fascinating sites to see, the stressful part is just travelling between them!
As a result of growth and development, roads across Bangalore are being widened, encroaching on the already minimal pedestrian infrastructure. A recent article highlights how this widening is also reducing the green cover and trees that Bangalore, the “Garden City”, was once known for. The city is motorising quickly and road fatalities are an all too frequent occurrence. India is investing heavily in public transport Metro infrastructure, but, even then, you are often dropped into the middle of a chaotic, seething traffic intersection.
These issues are so interconnected that ill-considered action to address one problem can simply exacerbate others.
A recent Clean Air Initiative report into “Walkability in Indian Cities” highlights the scale of the challenge. Out of a possible 100 points, the average walkability score of the six surveyed Indian cities was a 47. According to the report, “62 percent of people revealed that they would shift to motorized modes of transport if the walking environments in their cities did not improve”. Sometimes, walking just 500 metres from our apartment to some nearby shops can be enough of a headache (with potholes, garbage, road crossings and other obstacles) that we will use an autorickshaw to return home.
City authorities across India will need to start designing and planning for people, rather than cars, if they want people to walk or use public transport and not turn to other more polluting options.
But, one way or another, I can’t wait to share the sights of Bangalore with you!