One third of Delhi walks to work, but are our roads designed for safe walking and cycling? Latest CSE survey findings say no

  • Delhi has yet to wake up the mobility crisis. Increased use of cars is reducing people carrying capacity of roads.

  • Total walk and cycle trips are more than double the share of car trips.

  • If Delhi has to meet its target of 80 percent of public transport share by 2020 it will have to spend on walking and cycling feeders.

  • CSE assessment of the new walking and biking facilities in some parts of Delhi shows these are still being seen as streetscaping rather than continuous well designed usable system.

  • Policies are too weak to protect pedestrians and their right to walk and cycle

New Delhi, March 22, 2012: Urban transport planning in India is in deep trouble; even Delhi, the national capital, does not follow the principles laid down by the National Urban Transport Policy which says that cities must be designed for people, not vehicles. More and more cars are crowding Delhi’s roads, carrying less number of people, and edging out buses, walkers and cyclists – the city’s roads are rapidly losing the capacity to move more people.

This came out in a day-long international consultation on ‘Our right of way: walk and cycle’, organised here today by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). In its findings released at the conference, CSE pitched strongly for walking and cycling to support scaling up of public transport in Delhi and other Indian cities.

The CSE assessment has revealed a stunning and a scary reality about Delhi’s mobility:

  • Delhi is still unprepared to deal with the growing demand for travel: In this decade, total daily travel trips in Delhi will nearly double. It will increase from about 15 million motorised trips a day now to more than 25 million a day by 2021. Experts warn that this is an underestimation as the short and local trips are not even included in this count. Further motorisation of those trips will spell disaster,

  • Cars are taking over roads very rapidly: Currently, about 14 per cent of the daily trips are moved by cars, already choking the city. By 2021, the share of private vehicles will increase phenomenally while that of bus transport will decline. How will Delhi find more space to move so many private cars to cater to the growing travel demand? Delhi has already devoted maximum geographical space – 21 percent – for road network.

  • There is a phenomenal increase in car numbers on key South Delhi arteries. On Swarn Jayanti Marg in Dhaula kuan, the share of cars is as much 68 percent; on the Outer Ring Road, this share is nearly half of all traffic.

  • As car numbers are increasing, the people carrying capacity of Delhi roads is declining. If this trend continues, how will Delhi meet the burgeoning travel trips that will double by 2021?

  • Cars are blocking the invisible majority – walkers and cyclists:  Cars and two-wheelers are taking over the roads, edging out walkers and cyclists who are the majority in the city. While the total number of daily car trips in Delhi is about 3 million, that of walking and cycling is 8 million – 2.5 times more. Cycling trips at 2.8 million are almost equal to car trips. This staggering number is never visible and noticed for policy action.

  • Delhi has one of the highest walk and cycle trips in the country: In absolute numbers, Delhi tops in daily cycling trips and is second only to Mumbai in walking trips. Even in car-dominated roads like the Outer Ring Road, the share of cycles is quite close to that of autos – 7 per cent and 9 per cent, respectively.

  • Some stretches in Delhi show higher number of cycle trips than cars: In places like Uttam Nagar and Subhash Nagar on Shivaji Marg, and Jyoti Nagar East etc on Loni Road the numbers of cycle and cycle rickshaw outnumber cars. For instance, on the Subhash Nagar stretch, there are 18,000 non-motorised transport vs 4,000 cars.

  • Delhi has the dubious distinction of recording highest pedestrian fatalities in road accidents: Policy disdain and neglect is responsible for this homicide of zero emitters who are part of the solution to the mobility crisis.

  • The only way Delhi can avert a serious mobility and pollution crisis is to scale up public transport along with walking and cycling. The Delhi Master Plan has set the target of increasing the share of public transport to 80 percent by 2020 from the current share of 40 per cent. This scaling up is possible only if walking and cycling are equally scaled up to improve access to buses and Metro. Each and every public transport trip begins and ends as walk trip. Even 50 percent increase in public transport ridership will increase demand for walking and need significant expansion of walking infrastructure.

  • Unfortunately, obsession with seamless, signal free travel for motorized vehicles through flyovers, expressways and elevated ways is disrupting direct shortest routes of the walkers and cyclists and increasing distances and travel time for them. This can adversely affect public transport usage.

CSE assessment of new cycle and walk lanes in Delhi

CSE has conducted a random survey of the new cycle and walking lanes created during the Commonwealth Games to understand the improvements made and also the barriers that continue to discourage their usage. This survey has assessed how usable the newly designed lanes are. Five locations inlcude:

  1. The BRT stretch from Ambedkar Nagar to Pragati Maidan

  2. Vikas Marg from ITO to Laxmi Nagar

  3. Tughlakabad Stretch from Jamia Hamdard to Pul Prahladpur

  4. Noida Link road-Akshardham to New Ashok Nagar

  5. Marginal Bund Road near Shastri Nagar 

How these new lanes have made a difference?

  • For the first time in Delhi, road design has accorded priority to walkers and cyclists and elevated dignity and respect for them: It is providing legitimate and well designed space that is walkable and cyclable.
    Walker and cyclists oriented features introduced: Low lights and signages and amenities like toilets, street furniture etc for walkers and cyclists have been introduced.

  • Pedestrian and cycle crossing facilities provided for safe crossing: Pedestrian lights, specially designed junctions to allow safe crossing and passage etc are available.

  • Universal design implemented to make the lanes disabled friendly: The BRT corridor has very good disabled friendly engineering design.

  • Tree shades built into the design for the comfort of the pedestrians and cyclists. This is visible in Pragati Maidan, for instance. 

  • The cycle and walk lanes in the BRT corridor have scored best in engineering design and usability. This lane has been successful in inducing more bicycle traffic. The available data shows that during peak hours more than 2,000 bicyles cross this lane. The new lanes in Vikas Marg have come second in the ranking.

What is still discouraging usage of these lanes

The approach to designing cycle and walk lanes is still seen as streetscaping and not as a usable cycling walking thoroughfare. As a result: 

  • The lanes have remained discontinuous. After the streetscaping effort for the Commonwealth Games no further effort has been made to extend these lanes as a complete corridor. Huge amount of funds under JNNURM have been earmarked for roads and flyovers in Delhi. But this is a lost opportunity as this fund has not been used for improving active transportation – walking and cycling.

  • The devil is in the design. In many places the intricate design itself has created barrier. For example, entry into dedicated lanes is obstructed.

  • Walkers and cyclists require short exits from lanes. But adequate exit points have not been provided at frequent intervals. 

  • No traffic calming at the entry of the lanes: High speed motorized traffic impedes entry into the cycle lanes. There is no traffic calming at the entry and exit points of the lane.

  • Junctions are poorly designed on wide motorized roads

  • Sharp bends in the lane make them dangerous

  • Very high encroachment of the walking and cycling lanes by cars and two-wheelers: Cyclists prefer to stay on the motorized and congested roads than get into the cycle lane where two-wheelers intrude at high speed endangering them.

  • There is no penalty on the motor vehicle owners for encroaching into NMT lanes.

  • Neighbourhoods of poor (eg Bandh Road) have scored worst.

  • Even the minimum width is not maintained throughout the corridor.

  • Walking and cycling access to Metro stations: Poor

Agenda for action
CSE is concerned that road engineering interventions once made cannot be changed easily but it will permanently decide the design of the network and influence travel choices of people. It is imperative to ensure that road design does not increase dependence on and usage of personal vehicles. That is possible only if policy focus shifts to public transport, walking and cycling. 

  • The city needs implementation of pedestrian and cycling plans.

  • Reform engineering and environmental guidelines for walkways and ensure implementation nationbwide. Enforce new street design guidelines in Delhi.

  • Need robust laws to protect walkers and cyclists

  • Implement walkability audits of pedestrian and cycle lanes

  • Public transport plans must include pedestrian plan for multimodal integration.

  • Zero tolerance for accidents

  • Implement measures to reduce traffic volumes and introduce traffic calming measures 

For more on this, please contact Vivek Chattopadhyay of CSE ( , 9911791243).

This workshop was co supported by Jamsetji Tata Trust