In most developing world cities, the vast majority of citizens walk as part of their daily social, recreational, and livelihood activities. Every trip begins and ends with a walking trip. Nearly all trips made by people entail some walking, either directly to a destination or to another mode of transport. In Kathmandu, large section of population prefers to walk. In fact, 18.1 percent of daily trips are made entirely on foot, and of the nearly 56.5 percent of the commuters who use different modes of public transport, a large percentage walk as part of their daily commute.
Sharing the Street in Nepal
The need to improve on pedestrian infrastructures and services in Kathmandu
This is part of a series of abstracts and working papers being prepared for the Kaohsiung 2010 World Share/Transport Forum. 16-19 September 2010. See www.kaohsiung.sharetransport.org for details.
– Charina Cabrido, Research Officer, Clean Air Network Nepal
Inadequate planning for pedestrians has many negative consequences, the most notable being unnecessary fatalities and injuries. For example, according to study conducted by Kathmandu Valley Mapping Program (KVMP), pedestrians represent up to 40 percent of all fatalities in Kathmandu City in 2001. Further, lack of sufficient pedestrian infrastructure creates unnecessary costs incurred from impeded economic mobility, lost tourism and investment opportunities. Improving pedestrian facilities have high financial returns in terms of economic and environmental benefits due to reductions in emissions and accidents or fatalities averted.
Walkability is the overall support for pedestrian travel in an area. The extent to which the built environment is friendly to the presence of people living, shopping, visiting, enjoying or spending time in an area are taken into consideration to determine road walkability.
Kathmandu’s unsafe pedestrian environment
A study undertaken by Clean Air Network Nepal and Clean Energy Nepal has revealed that pedestrian facility in Kathmandu is in worse condition and is not user-friendly to physically disabled people.
The field survey was conducted in commercial, public transport, educational and residential areas covering a total of 48 road stretches with a combined length of 59 kilometers. Residential areas in Baneshwor Height, Kuleshwor, Khusibu and Lainchaur to Lazimpat has the highest walkability scores in the following variables; availability of walking paths with maintenance and cleanliness, availability of crossings per stretch, grade crossing safety, motorists obeying traffic laws and security from crime. The survey has put commercial area in Ason as the most pedestrian unfriendly road. It was registered that significant modal conflict in walking path mainly comes from vendors occupying the footpaths that make walking inconvenient. The Public Transport areas in Ratna Park and Kalanki have the highest number of pedestrian users and obtained the highest score in walking path modal conflict.
The walkability survey in Kathmandu City is an initiative of the Clean Air Initiatives for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia) and its partner network Clean Energy Nepal (CEN) aimed to collect data about the city’s pedestrian environment. The overarching goal of the project is to improve pedestrian’s safety and mobility and promote walking as a sustainable transport.
About 305 pedestrian interviews were conducted to analyze travel behavior (time that pedestrians spend for each travel mode), pedestrian preference in terms of infrastructures, degrees of exposure to air pollution and socioeconomic profiles. About 46 percent of the respondents said that the situation of existing infrastructures in the city is in its worst condition. There was no observed consistency in design in terms of width, height, and continuity of footpaths or road-crossings. A number of footpaths have meter width forcing the pedestrians to use the main roads. Other amenities such as lamp-post and greenery occupy the footpaths and existing guard rails are in poor state. Pedestrian signboards and crossing marks are fading that gives longer waiting time for people to cross the other side of the road.
About 94 percent of all the surveyed road stretches has no existing facilities for persons with disabilities. In terms of improvements in pedestrian facilities, this is the utmost priority perceived by majority of the respondents, followed by improved street lighting and wider, level and clean sidewalks.
Almost 80 percent of the stakeholders and government respondents said that there are no clear laws on jaywalking, traffic calming and roadside advertisements. Based from the results derived from stakeholder and government surveys, the main barriers in improving the pedestrian facilities include lack of awareness on the importance of pedestrians safety, polices and investment for pedestrian friendly infrastructures and guidelines, linkages of all authorities working on pedestrian issues, poor urbanization plan and weak agency implementation.
The walkability survey in Kathmandu was also replicated in Bhaktapur, a tourist destination in the outskirts of Kathmandu, with financial support from Bhaktapur’s Local Development Office. In daily trips made by pedestrians, 57.4% of the respondents said that walking is perceived to have the highest exposure to air pollution, affecting health and visibility. According to a study by Clean Air Network Nepal (local network of CAI-Asia in Nepal) in 2008, the ambient concentration of Particulate Matter (10 ug/m3) in Kathmandu city is 120 ug/m3, five times higher than the World Health Organization standards. Except for 2006, PM10 levels are generally higher than the national standard (120?g/m3), and consistently exceed WHO guidelines (20?g/m3).
The Planning Committee in Bhaktapur mentioned that there is no yearly budget allocation system for pedestrian infrastructure or sidewalk development until this date. Budget is granted as per needed condition. There is inadequate pedestrian facilities-related design or guidelines that could have supported the budget release for pedestrian improvements. Currently, the Bhaktapur Durbar Square is declared as World Heritage Site and a vehicle free zone for more than 20 years. The Municipality is planning to extend the same initiative to make the whole core area of Bhaktapur as vehicle free zone.
In many countries, methods of planning have been redesigned so that social, economic, and environmental objectives are an integral part of sustainable transportation planning. This changes both the process and the content of transportation planning and decision-making.
Priorities are shifting toward less environmentally damaging modes and improved vehicle technology; optimizing the use of existing capacity; and location and design decisions that support sustainability objectives.
Nepal needs to come up with an integrated framework on pedestrian road safety, urban planning and transport infrastructures that will promote sustainable urban modes of transport in the country. This integrated framework must coordinate all actions of government ministries and departments working on road safety, infrastructures and traffic issues.
* Dedicated and properly designed paths for pedestrians and cycle users are included in the construction of newly built roads.
* Formulation and implementation of mix modes of transport, including exclusive zones for non – motorized transit on specific areas within congested urban zones.
* Showcasing pilot projects from sample cities to demonstrate the improvements that are possible through improved usage of pedestrian facilities for other cities to replicate.
* Nepal needs to promote electric based transport system to cut dependency on imported fossil fuels, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and local air pollutants.
* Provision of pedestrian amenities such as greenery, waiting sheds, crossing points, ramps for differently-able persons and street lights must be placed in strategic locations to meet the intended objectives of protecting pedestrians, walking space and promote pedestrianisation in the city.
* Activities on footpaths such as street vendors must be properly controlled to secure pedestrian safety.
* Strict enforcement of measures against unsafe traffic behaviors must be implemented.
* Public awareness campaigns must be employed to strengthen motorist and pedestrian behaviors and promote pedestrian safety on the road.
* Current allocations for road safety, infrastructures and public awareness campaigns should be adequate to implement an effective integrated policy on sustainable urban transport in the country.
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About the author:
Charina Cabrido is an environmental researcher, a writer and a cycling advocate who is working for sustainable urban transport in Kathmandu, Nepal. She is currently associated with the Clean Air Initiatives for Asian Cities, an organization that is active in 8 country networks and over 170 organizational members to promote and demonstrate innovative ways to improve the air quality in Asian cities through partnerships and sharing experiences. Charina currently leads the Walkability Index Survey in Kathmandu to promote improvements in pedestrianisation infrastructures and services. She is also active in developing mass education, awareness and media campaign related to Air Quality Management issues in Nepal through the Clean Air Network Nepal. She is participating in Kaohsiung 2010 as one of our invited Future Leaders/Young Scholars from across Asia.