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Fobbing on FOBs

Fobbing on FOBs
Delhi has quite a number of foot-over-bridges (FOBs) and subways and still a large number of pedestrians cross road at grade level, at times jumping the railings and always endangering their own lives. Many of the pedestrians prefer to climb over the divider railing and suddenly jump in front of cars, buses or any of the speeding moving vehicles on the roads.

According to Delhi traffic police data around 514 cases of pedestrian deaths have been reported till September 30, 2015 in national Capital. These pedestrians lost their lives at risk while crossing or walking at the roads. However, the pedestrians cannot be held responsible alone for not using FOBs as encroachment, poor planning and maintenance by the concerned agencies that keep them away from using the FOBs.

Most pedestrians avoid taking the FOBs where some of them don’t want to walk few steps, and others find it difficult to even climb, few of them have safety concern while some seems to be suffering from a bout of escalophobia (fear of using escalators).

According to global studies, around 0.03 per cent of the world’s population suffers from escalaphobia. Apparently, bathnophobia (fear of stairs), climacophobia (fear of climbing), acrophobia (fear of heights) are few phobias that contribute to escalaphobia. Many of them have the phobia of height and escalators. “I use the opening in the median to cross the road. I keep a watch on the vehicles and when there is a lull I cross. It is better than climbing up the steps on the rusty FOBs. I am afraid to use FOB because of much heights,” said a middle aged man Madan Lal, who is a resident of Laxmi Nagar.

After many prolonged delays, numbers of FOBs were opened to the public, but pedestrians say that climbing over the FOB is too much of an effort. “There is a FOB in Anand Vihar, but dashing the road to cross it has almost become a habit now,” said Amit Sharma, a resident of Vaishali, Gaziabad.

Meanwhile, this reporter found that some of the FOBs escalators were not working, which prohibits the movement of physically challenged and aged pedestrians to use FOBs. Conditions of many foot-over-bridges are not very good and because of bad lighting and security concerns women are avoiding FOBs. RK Puram Sector-4 FOB’s poor lighting keeps away the women commuters to use it at night. While the newly constructed FOB at Shakar Pur area prevail all the facilities for pedestrians, illegal parking and encroachment stop their movement to reach at FOB.

Several FOBs are badly located, far away from pedestrian-heavy zones and bus stops where few of them have ramps, escalators and lift pavements that have been broken and inaccessible structured pillars. FOBs encroach on pavement, forcing pedestrians to walk on road rather than using lifts and escalators simple because they don’t always work. Locating to Aurobindo Marg, the FOB near Ansari Nagar is rarely used that has located approx. 200m from the nearest bus stop. This anyway has an at-grade (ground-level) crossing available as it is near a major intersection, the FOB serves little purpose. It neither has an escalator, a lift nor proper lights, making the facility unsafe after evening time.

Situation of Nehru Place FOB (near Kalkaji temple), is even worse. There is no lift or escalator, and pedestrians have to climb a three-part ramp to get to the top. Millennium Post found people running through the speeding traffic rather than using the bridge. “It is so tiring to walk this much to cross the road. The structure is too difficult to climb,” said Vikas Verma, a commuter.

Earlier on June 23 assessments of road accidents and accident hotspots in Delhi released by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the share of pedestrians falling victim to road crashes in Delhi is as high as 44 per cent – the highest among key metro cities. Globally, the CSE report says, walkers and cyclists together make up a quarter of the road injury and death victims.

Encroaching on the pavement, the FOB has also left no space for pedestrians, forcing them on to the road. One can see more broken tiles and garbage than actual pedestrians taking the bridge. It becomes a haven for the homeless in the night time. One can see and visit Anand Vihar FOBs where pedestrians face such problem every day. According to the CSE assessment report, FOBs, the adjunct of car-centric design, do not work and they are not the best way forward. “There is a growing tendency to remove people from the road while making signal-free corridors – by building foot over-bridges and subways for crossing. But as the traffic police’s own review of FOBs indicates, this has actually increased safety risk as people still prefer to cross on the roads. This forced eviction of people from the surface may help lower accident rates (as has been the case near the Anand Vihar Bus Station), but will also limit sustainable modes like walking, cycling and public transport usage,” note the CSE experts.

Despite the poor people usage of such facilities, the Delhi government is in the process of constructing at least 20 FOBs in addition to the existing list of 68 spread across the city. One can understand the fact that most of the time pedestrians are forced to wait endlessly at busy roads to cross the road and they take the risk to jump in the middle of the road and sometimes that risk converts into a road accident. Jaywalking has become a regular menace, especially during peak traffic hours, near the RML hospital. “The Foot Over Bridge built near RML hospital is of no use due to traffic diversion at the RML Hospital roundabout and adding to that, one side of the Foot Over Bridge is not accessible to the commuter which is more than one km away from the locality. Currently, the Public Works Department (PWD) maintains 83 FOBs across the city. The department has recently cleared five more FOB projects in South and West Delhi.

Experts suggest planners need to look at alternative infrastructure which are more pedestrian-friendly to curb jaywalking. “FOBs are no longer the preferred choice world over. Half-elevated roads with subways are advisable. One such structure is functional on Lala Lajpat Rai Marg near Moolchand, which is very frequently used by the pedestrians. Such subways bring down the number of stairs on either side to seven to nine so people don’t find it very taxing physically,”

“FOBs and subways have been provided for safe passage of pedestrians through stretches with heavy traffic. Now that the infrastructure is there, it should be used. Even if there is an FOB a few metres away, pedestrians would jump over the central verge to cross over to the other side. This is a dangerous practice and has resulted in several accidents. To prevent this, high railings are being raised at central verges, so that people use either the FOB or subway to get across safely,” said a senior official.

There can be several compulsions for not using an FOB other than the desire to be simply lawless. 

“Subways and FOBs constrain people enormously. Other than having to walk extra, one may be carrying a heavy load or a child and hence choose to avoid an FOB."

UTTIPEC guidelines clearly state that a crossing needs to be provided at every 250m. Ignoring this while putting up high railings will only give primacy to vehicles. People will soon avoid walking in these stretches and move to a point further on where they can cross at grade.
Sunil Thapliyal

Sunil Thapliyal

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