Right to walk was claimed as the major aim behind the GHMC’s recent drive against footpath encroachments, during which close to 4,700 permanent, semi-permanent and movable installations were removed from the footpaths.

But the ground reality says that mere removal of encroachments cannot restore the right to walk to the average pedestrian, leave alone the physically challenged. As per the GHMC’s estimates, the road length of the city is 9,100 km. Of these, about 800 km are four-lane roads, for which footpaths on both sides are mandatory requirement.

For the total required length of 1,600 kilometres of footpaths, the city has mere 432 kilometres so far. Many major stretches, including the 52-km inner ring road, are not always hemmed by pedestrian paths.

Even where they exist, the width of pavements is grossly insufficient. As per the data obtained from GHMC, the footpaths ideally should be of certain minimum width varying according to the locality. In commercial and mixed-use areas, they should be of a minimum of 2.5 metres, while in front of shops, the width should be increased to 3.5 to 4.5 metres. Near bus-stops, the width should be a minimum three metres, and in high intensity commercial areas, it should be at least four metres.

According to the revised guidelines of Indian Road Congress, even residential areas should have pavements of a minimum total width of 3.3 metres, with space for shop frontages and footpath furniture such as seating, garbage bins, and avenue plants. In commercial zones, footpaths should be a minimum of five metres and in high intensity commercial zones, they should be 6.5 metres.

City is far from reaching these standards, as obvious from mere 28-kilometre road length having footpaths over 2.5 metre wide. A total of 146 kilometres of road is lined by footpaths of only 1 to 1.5 metres wide, and 30 kilometres have less than one metre width.

While the golden standard is that the paved paths should allow two-wheel chairs move side by side, in many places of the city, even two pedestrians cannot cross paths without bumping into each other. A predominant portion of even these paths are occupied, barricaded, or obliterated, as much by commercial establishments, as by the utilities such as power transformers and public toilets.

Officials, however, vouch that the government is gearing towards providing better pathways for pedestrians. “Footpaths will be part of all road projects to be undertaken in future. On all the roads we are taking up under periodic preventive maintenance, we are making sure to lay footpaths. Accordingly, 150 km of footpaths are being laid currently,” says Chief Engineer (Maintenance) Mohammed Ziauddin.

Hyderabad Metro Rail is paving up to 500 metres on both sides of the Metro Rail stations, while Hyderabad Road Development Corporation too has footpaths in its mandate.

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