An initiative that would stretch beyond the political landscape of the day, AAP redesigning roads in Delhi is a far-sighted vision to transform the transport network into a greener, safer and more inclusive equity for all its citizens.
- Delhi boasts 1,749 km of road length per 100 square km, the second-highest road density in India after Mumbai.
- AAP is redesigning and landscaping of the 1,260 km of PWD-owned road network.
- The move aims to remove bottlenecks, curb congestion and make space for pedestrians, non-motorised vehicles as well as differently-abled.
India’s capital Delhi is a historic city that has gone through generations of development spanning almost a millennium. Governance changed hands through ages and Delhi came up in fragments influenced by various factors that define the city’s space. Delhi’s street grids are unplanned, planned and built in an ad-hoc way. The different approaches also gave Delhi’s streets a complicated structure. Thus, there is a dire need: Redesigning of Delhi’s roads.
Today, Delhi boasts 1,749 km of road length per hundred square km, second-highest road density in India.
This makes AAP’s decision to initiate redesigning and landscaping of the 1,260 km of PWD-owned road network a logical step. However, the factors in focus and features that this redesigning will bring reach far beyond just one parameter. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal referenced European roads which are a hallmark of development in those nations.
AAP’s step aims to remove bottlenecks, landscaping, and space for pedestrians, non-motorised vehicles as well as differently-abled. When completed, the project is expected to curtail accidents, and remove congestion. It will also empower the have-nots by giving them an equal facility to use public equity. Furthermore, it promotes greener transport as a significant step towards cleaner air in the long run.
The Economics: Safety, Congestion, and Counterproductivity
Delhi’s unplanned roads also take an enormous toll on human life. In 2018, Delhi saw 6,515 total road accidents which killed 1690 people. Delhi has dire need of some re-planning of roads as per “international standards” where scientific evaluation is used to enhance safety.
Furthermore, Delhi is home to one of the most congested road networks in India. Most of Delhi’s roads do not align neighbourhoods and regularly hit dead ends which were converted into T-junctions. This jams streets with impenetrable congestion, which in turn leads to immeasurable loss of valuable working hours for the citizens.
During peak hours, average commute takes 58 percent longer in Delhi resulting in valuabe working hours lost for citizens.
Numerous studies indicate that citizens prefer roads with fewer turns instead of the criss-cross nature of streets in the capital. Non-alignment of streets in Delhi reduces the usefulness of streets and results in a loss to the economy stagnant in jams for hours. CM Arvind Kejriwal explained the issue, “When a four-lane road converges into a three-lane road at some distance and further expands into a six-lane road, the problems start. That’s why they have to be redesigned.”
Making roads for All Delhi citizens
With higher road density, Delhi sees more vehicle owners. The city has more than one crore vehicles. This is a direct result of street design proving better for personal vehicle commute at the expense of pedestrian/ non-motorised commuters.
At 35-40 percent, a substantial chunk of citizen commute in India falls in the non-motorised category.
As per the 2011 Census of India, around 23 percent of work trips happen on foot, 13 percent on bicycles and 18 percent on public transport. However, only 15 percent of trips are on private transport.
In fact, this inadvertently becomes a question of rightful share in equity and participation in public spaces. Around 35-40 percent of non-motorised private commuters do not have minimal facilities to leverage the roads. What is the logic behind most of the street space dedicated to only 15 percent of the traffic?
Furthermore, Delhi’s sidewalks have a miserable bare minimum area. In most streets, there is no dedicated space for bicycles. On the contrary, private cars wreak havoc in the narrowest of corridors, asserting their rights with a heavy class-influenced sense of seniority. CM Kejriwal said the ‘available space on roads will be utilized’. Likewise, footpaths will be redesigned as well as reconstructed and made disabled-friendly.
Ensuring cleaner air is an aspect of Delhi’s future transport system
The one crore-plus private vehicles in Delhi are responsible for 40 percent of the air pollution in the capital. While schemes like ‘odd-even’ and curbing ‘diesel vehicles’ is enforcement of restrictions, promoting greener means of commute through redesigning Delhi’s roads is a constructive measure.
AAP’s plan aims to revamp the PWD roads focussing on proper spaces for pedestrians, cyclists, e-rickshaws which all are greener means of transport.
Moreover, separate stands for autos and e-rickshaws on redesigned roads will also make these modes more accessible for citizens of the capital. Reducing congestion also ensures that there is lesser air pollution from vehicle exhausts. Slower traffic speeds amplify emissions.
By making separate and safer lanes for non-motorized commute, the government doesn’t just give the have-nots their due share in equity, it also indirectly pushes the commute into mainstream among the affluent. With going green in commute more accessible, several pro-environment citizens from Delhi’s upper strata will hopefully shed polluting motor vehicles from their everyday commute. So, this changes the face of the road network in Delhi, giving it a green-leaning identity in the future.
The Responsibility of Delhi’s Citizens
A similar innovative approach was taken a few years back with the Bus Road Transport system (BRT), however, the adamant affluent who grew unhappy seeing their private vehicle space on roads reduced, couldn’t look beyond immediate personal gains. Therefore, BRT failed as a project in curbing congestion, reducing private vehicles and giving the poorer sections accessibility to mainstream roads.
Today, the population in the capital is on a more informed trajectory. People are fully aware of the poisonous ill-effects of increasing vehicle traffic and the economic setback of congested roads. Thus, this makes the timing ideal for AAP to bring in the new initiative.
Redesigning Delhi’s roads falls in line with AAP’s socialist approach to governance which has seen projects in domains like healthcare, education, and availability of bare necessities for all.
Once completed, it empowers the citizens of Delhi to come out and claim the roads equally. In the long run, it also enables citizens to step up to greener ways of commute. Consequently, the step takes Delhi further in its trajectory of sustainability, empowerment, and inclusivity.
- The move will be economically beneficial, removing impenetrable congestion which leads to immeasurable loss of working hours for Delhi’s citizens.
- Redesigning with a focus on pedestrians, cyclists and differently ables will enable around 35-40 percent of non-motorised private commuters to leverage the public equity of roads.
- Removing congestion and making space for greener modes of commutes results in checking air pollution through vehicles in the future.