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Paving the way

February 11, 2014 by

We had a successful community design workshop in Nanganallur in July 2013, where nearly 50 residents of the community participated in the hands-on exercise to design an ideal street in their neighbourhood. Following the workshop, we assimilated the ideas the community had given us and using that information, I started the process of final designs for the surveyed roads. Besides using the feedback and suggestions given to me by the community, I also incorporated the Indian Roads Congress (IRC) standards for footpaths into the final designs. First, the base plan was put together from information collected during the surveys. This information included all the basic physical entities of the roads like the lengths, widths of footpaths, property entrances, parking areas, compound wall heights of the abutting building etc. The design has been represented through plans as well as cross-sections to create a better understanding. Plans give an overview of where the proposed parking slots are and the cross-section shows the pedestrian zones which are explained below.

While approaching the design of these footpaths, I kept in mind that, generally, good pavements are divided into three zones, as shown in Graph 1. The adjoining land-use of the roads dictated the widths of the three zones.

  • Frontage zone: This is the area abutting the property line and is mostly provided for commercial areas where commercial activities spill over. The width of the frontage zone varies based on the density and character of the commercial activity, and can be avoided in a completely residential zone.
  • Pedestrian zone: This is where pedestrians enjoy an obstruction-free and unhindered walk. The minimum width of the pedestrian zone is 1.2m in a completely residential zone and can be up to 3m in a high commercial zone.
  • Furniture zone: This zone is adjacent to the road and forms a buffer between the pedestrian zone and vehicular traffic. It accommodates all the utilities like lamp posts, telephone boxes, trees, street furniture, electric poles etc. and also vendors. The widths vary from 0.5 to 1.5m.

Figure 1: Sketch showing the cross section of 6th main road, Nanganallur

Some important aspects that had to be kept in mind during the design process included:

  • In residential areas, the property entrances are provided with access ramps that slope from the pedestrian zone to the road lane. This prevents frequent breaks in the walkway, giving users an uninterrupted walkway.

Figure 2: Cross-section of Station road showing a completely residential area with a ramp at the property entrance

  • Nanganallur has many schools and hence pedestrian traffic is more outside the schools. In response to this, the footpaths adjacent to school campuses are designed to be wide. They have bollards that act as barriers and prevents children from stepping into the roads.
  • Vendors are accommodated within the furniture zone and are allocated space according to the areas identified from the survey. The design allows for vending space without disturbing the movement of pedestrians.
  • Two-way traffic lanes are separated by a median. This acts as a buffer between opposing traffic, provides refuge to pedestrians crossing the road and also allows for rain water to percolate into the water table below.
  • The lane width measures about 3.5m minimum from the edge of the median.
  • The lamp posts are placed along the furniture zone at regular intervals. Two-way posts are recommended to light both the footpath and the road.
  • Stretches of road that do not have shade will get shade-providing trees planted at regular intervals.
  • Parallel parking is provided at places along the length of the road. This space is carved out of the furniture zone so that the parking poses no hindrance to the flow of pedestrians or traffic. Metered parking will ensure that cars use this parking for short durations.

Figure 3: Plan showing the proposed parking area, furniture zone, property line and the ramp to the property

  • Water drains are provided along the furniture zone. We recommend that the Corporation builds storm water drains and service ducts directly below the furniture zone to avoid disruption at the time of maintenance.

In the coming weeks we will submit an implementation plan to Corporation officials and work with them to create better pedestrian infrastructure for the residents of Nanganallur.

Written by Lalitha Selvarajan, researcher, Transparent Chennai
Sketches by Lalitha Selvarajan

2 thoughts on “Paving the way

  1. Very interesting design – I really like the idea of the ‘furniture zone’ to create a sense of physical separation between pedestrians and the traffic on the road.

    I have a few questions though –
    1. How do you prevent commercial activities from taking over the space meant for pedestrians? Since the buffer zone exists and there may be shade from trees, what’s to stop shops from extending their business onto the pavement? To me, the key to ensuring that the space is retained for pedestrians is constant enforcement and checks and the imposing fines on people who do this. I also believe that it is in the interest of the shops to keep the space as it is since that will likely encourage pedestrians to use the stretch, and hopefully increase business. I would love to help conduct a study on something like this! I know the city of Portland in the US found that encouraging bikes in business districts improved revenues, so perhaps something like that will happen?

    2. How do you deal with property owners who tear down the pavement to build ramps into their homes/apartment buildings? I see a lot of this in Chennai, and it really annoys me. I think that these ramps should be torn down and rebuilt to meet proper pedestrian standards at the owner’s expense.

    3. Is it optimistic to believe that things will work exactly as they are intended? What are potential problems you envision, and how can they be addressed in the design phase?

  2. Thanks Navaneethan for your comments. To answer your questions,
    1. In the commercial areas, we have provided the Frontage Zone as I mentioned in the blog. The shop owners can spread their activity in this zone (behavioural pattern of Indians) without blocking the customers from entering the shops. Otherwise, preventing them from encroaching on the pedestrian zone can only be done by enforcement and regular monitoring. By this, still the pedestrians can walk without any obstruction in the dedicated path provided for them.
    2. In most of the cases, the property entrances poses discontinuity in the walk way because of the ramps constructed. In figure 2, I have explained that the ramp should start from the carriage way and rises up into the furniture zone, ensuring the pedestrian zone is at the same level. Further entry to the property will be based on the height differences (sloping up or down) between the property level and the footpaths.
    3. From our study and experiences so far, we find, Encroachments and Enforcement are the biggest problems. With regard to design, we work with the community and so every small detail is taken care of and the solution has been provided for all the issues faced by people. Just hoping for effective execution that leads to betterment and change.