October 18, 2016

Reclaiming Streets: Pedestrian Only Test Run Marks New Beginning in Pune

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“If we play in our backyard, the shuttlecock always falls into a neighbor’s compound!”, complained little Anaya and Avani, residents of Aundh, Pune. In a city that is getting more congested by the day leaving behind fewer playgrounds, Anaya and Avani are joined by other Pune locals in grumbling about a lack of open public space. However, for a week now, and everyday in the nearby future, children and adults alike have a chance to play in the open to their heart’s content – right on the streets!

As a step towards returning Pune’s streets back to its residents, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has organized a week-long trial of “HEALTHY Aundh- Street and Pedestrian Walkway” until 15th October, 2016. A stretch of 1.5 km between Bremen Chowk and Parihar junctions in Aundh has been converted into a pedestrian-only zone for this test run.

children-playing-badminton-on-streetThe idea of pedestrians and cyclists reclaiming some space back from vehicles has been receiving positive feedback in Pune. This welcome has been witnessed during the numerous pre-event meetings with various stakeholders, shop owners and residents of Aundh, who believe that it is high time for a change of this scale. A few concerns have been raised by a small group of local shop-owners, who were apprehensive about the impact of the pedestrianization on sales in the region. Despite this minor discrepancy, the general consensus is that the  freedom to walk and cycle is every citizen’s right!

In addition to public backing, immense support from Prasanna Desai Architects (PDA), IBI Group, Pavetech Consultants, CEE, and McKinsey Group with technical counsel from ITDP, has helped PMC get this challenging project on ground. The traffic police have also played an important role in assisting the Corporation and the architects with the design for this test run.

As per this plan, half of the road between Bremen and Parihar junctions has been completely reallocated for pedestrians and cyclists, giving them enough room for safe movement. The aim is to create a better environment for both the individual and the community. Hence, the layout for the pedestrianized street includes a combination of elements that seek to de-congest public space.

cycle-track-at-mockThese elements include a cycle track, in line with the city’s vision to substantially increase its current cycling share of 9%. A separate, wide footpath allows pedestrians to walk without obstructing the cyclists. Street furniture with clear road signage has been placed in different areas within the zone to enhance the experience of the pedestrians and shoppers. While some on-street parking slots have been retained along the other half of the road, the overall design of the plaza reduces space occupied by parking and repurposes it for people’s use.

A shopping destination, these streets on Aundh attract a lot of local residents. To make it easy for them to visit, Kinetic Motors has provided electric vehicles to shuttle along four color-coded routes every ten minutes during the trial week. This free service should encourage residents to abandon their private vehicles and opt for publicly-shared transport methods instead, until they get habituated to walking and cycling as mainstream modes of commute.

With these changes in place this week, Aundh has been witness to children playing happily on the streets, families strolling uninterrupted, shoppers enjoying at the stores, locals peacefully riding their bicycles for running errands, seniors sitting on benches under trees having animated conversation on politics – a scene unimaginable in the past!

The mock is but one among many new beginnings for Pune. The city also recently launched the open data portal as a part of the Digital India Initiative, which will soon make Pune’s transport and traffic data freely accessible to all. With these continuous efforts by the PMC combined with the positivity in the air, Pune is definitely on the right track towards becoming a sustainably developing city!

This post was orginially published by ITDP India.

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