Millennium Post

Filthy, Empty & Useless!

Delhi faces a unique complication of poorly maintained foot-over bridges – with dysfunctional escalators and unhygienic state, public opinion reflects that they are a waste of money

Filthy, Empty & Useless!

Delhi has several foot overbridges and subways; walking through these skywalks during day and night has become a nightmare for the pedestrians' who walk through these desolate areas which have become a hangout place for the anti-social elements of the society. Many have also witnessed dysfunctional escalators, filth and dark zones, even people can be seen urinating near these locations. Even if its day time, many have been avoiding these FOBs and try to cross the road at grade level, by jumping the railing and endangering their own lives.

In 2007, when several state-of-art foot -over bridges (FOBs) were being planned, many felt relieved with this news. It was to help children, senior citizens and the differently-abled who faced the issue of crossing the road during office-time or even during the non-traffic time of the day. However, the FOBs have failed to serve their purpose as most pedestrians are reluctant to use them. Poor maintenance at many FOBs has left the escalators non-functional, while many have fallen prey to vandalism due to lack of security staff.

"When these FOBs were planned, it was expected that they would provide a safe passage to pedestrians that witness heavy traffic, but they have turned out to be a waste of public money," said a resident of the Jangpura Extension.

Filth & decadence

At Jangpura skywalks, hundreds of pedestrians use the bridge every day to cross the busy Lala Lajpat Rai Marg and a majority of them include people going to Jangpura Metro station (located at the backside of CGO complex). However, the shabby state of the facility raises questions over the maintenance by the authority, garbage lines the bridge, the dirty and stinking escalator remains out of service most of the time and in the absence of security, most fitting and fixtures have been stolen.

"For the convenience of pedestrians, the authority has installed lifts on both the entrances, but these don't work on most days. The corners facing the gates have turned into urinals and people entering or exiting have to cover their faces due to the stink," said Girish Chawla, a resident of Jangpura who uses the bridge daily to reach the Metro station. The railings have 'pan' stains, making it impossible for anyone to hold them for support.

Similar to the Maharani Bagh FOB has become a public toilet of sorts for many despite the fact there are four public toilets at a distance of 150 meters. The stink is unbearable for people waiting at the nearby bus stop and those using the FOB.

Moreover, Residents of Kalindi Colony said that the FOB is home to beggars and miscreants. At night, many drunkards can be spotted around the FOB, which raises a safety concern amongst all.

Skywalk woes

Interestingly, many motorists can be seen accelerating their vehicles above the 20 feet at the skywalks, which were supposed to be used by the pedestrians but has somehow resulted in their discomfort. Ironically, three pedestrian bridges on East Delhi's Marginal Bandh Marg are used less by walkers and more by two-wheelers.

"The next U-turn is several kilometres away and the bikers use this foot overbridge to avoid that. Their concern is their riding distance, not the safety of pedestrians," sighs Shyamal Dey at Yamuna Bank. But the takeover by bikers is not the only bane of Delhi's FOBs. Often, the maintenance is poor and cleanliness is all but non-existence at these spots.

The one next to the cramped Gandhi Nagar market, a little ahead of Yamuna Bank, is used as a parking spot. Dozens of bicycles and two-wheelers can be seen secured to the bridge's ramp. "You are requested not to keep stuff, park cycles, scooters, motorcycles here," reads a PWD signboard, but the order deters no one.

There are more than 81 FOBs under PWD, of which nine were completed in 2017-18. Two others are in the blueprint stage and plans for seven new ones have been approved. Each pedestrian bridge costs Rs 2-5 crore to erect, but are grossly underutilized. Their poor upkeep forces pedestrians to take the risk of crossing the roads rather than to take the overhead bridge option.

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 overbridges are not very good and because of bad lighting and security concerns, women are avoiding FOBs.

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 or inaccessible structured pillars. FOBs encroach on the pavement forces pedestrians to walk on the road rather than using lifts and escalators simply because they don't always work. Locating to Aurobindo Marg, the FOB near Ansari Nagar is rarely used that is 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 or even proper lights, making the facility unsafe after evening time. The 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.

Fear of Escalators

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 whereas few of them have safety concern while some seem 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), and acrophobia (fear of heights) are few phobias that contribute to escalaphobia. "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.

Pretence 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, Ghaziabad.

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.

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 to choose 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.

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