The Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs has recommended holistic planning for pedestrian-friendly market spaces in various cities and municipal areas in the country in consultation with stakeholders. The advisory issued by Durga Shanker Mishra, Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs to all states, cities and municipal corporations has also suggested the million-plus cities to select at least three marketplaces for pedestrianisation and non-million plus cities to select at least one such area for pedestrianisation.
MoHUA has also suggested a series of steps for adopting the pedestrianisation in marketplaces. In terms of selection of the market location, million-plus cities may select at least three marketplaces to be notified for pedestrianisation. The non-million plus cities may select at least one market area for pedestrianisation. The holistic planning for pedestrian-friendly market space may be done in consultation with the stakeholders, including vendors, municipal officials, traffic police, parking facility owners, shop owners and consumers. This would require a proper survey of space used in the present scenario by various stakeholders.
A movement or direction plan has to be prepared to see that there are designated walking paths where visitors are able to follow social distancing. The plan could be made keeping the trees and other green covers intact, the addition of tree canopy to improve walkability with clear spaces demarcated for vending, provision for collection of waste and access to restrooms. The plan should also incorporate interactive spaces for the public to be carved out of contiguous unclaimed and under-utilised public spaces in the vicinity of the selected market area.
Once the plan is made and firmed up cities may start implementation on a short and long-term basis.
The short-term recommendations include interventions that are quick, temporary, easy to install and ensure commuter safety in these times of COVID-19. The market spaces could be rearranged with quick and temporary measures such as barricades and road closure for vehicles. On-street parking space or even carriageway lanes can be re-purposed to provide more walking and waiting area. Moreover, cities may consider providing improved access through additional streets. Cyclists may be allowed on dedicated and ear-marked pathways. The provision of access to motor vehicles for residents of the area to commute should be clearly delineated. Municipal Bodies may increase the width of footpaths of the streets leading to the market. Adequate provision of high-frequency public transit may be ensured for citizens to access the market area in a comfortable manner. The design of the vending spaces provides a good opportunity for innovations.
Long-term permanent structures for promoting pedestrianisation can be developed after temporary short-term measures are found to be working.
As for the timelines, the selection of city market spaces for pedestrianisation may be done by June 30, 2020. The holistic planning of the area through stakeholder consultation can be undertaken in the next three months, i.e., by September 30. The survey of the vendors and other users of the market space could be carried out and completed by July 31. By the end of September, a plan may be formalised to start implementation. Short-term measures such a temporary barricading, closure of roads for traffic, earmarking spaces, etc., to assess the plan on the field may be started in the first week of October 2020. The assessment of the implemented plan through short-term measures may be done by November 2020 and amendments as required may be completed by November.
As cities look to ease the lockdown and provide safe, affordable and equitable modes of transport while ensuring physical social distancing, the need for pedestrianisation of market spaces through walking and cycling-friendly cities is of utmost importance. The COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to reimagine streets for people. To make market areas COVID-19 safe and people-friendly, the need of the hour is for Indian cities to consider pedestrianising them.
Even before COVID-19 hit the world, a few Indian cities like Chennai, Pune and Bengaluru started transforming into people-friendly cities. Over the last five years, Chennai has implemented more than 100 km of pedestrian-friendly streets across the city, including a pedestrian plaza in its commercial heart. Further, it is quadrupling its efforts this year through the Mega Streets Programme, which aims to transform Chennai’s unsafe streets into ‘complete streets’ prioritising pedestrians and cyclists. Inspired by Chennai’s efforts, Tamil Nadu has allocated a budget to expand the program across ten cities of the state.
Pune became the first Indian city to develop a Comprehensive Cycling Plan that proposes a 400 km of cycle-friendly streets. Multiple Indian cities rolled out cycle-sharing systems. They have empowered college students, especially women, to embrace cycling and move around the city with freedom. With the enthusiastic push for bicycles by mayors, municipal commissioners, smart cities and civic groups promoting cycling in various Indian cities, this could be the right time for cities to embrace this model.