The Bridge not Taken

Vishrantwadi Chowk is a complex mesh of streets and vehicles. Roads from Alandi, Pune Airport and Dhanori meet at this square, making it one of the most congested and perilous junctions in the city. Following a common narrative and logic a massive foot overbridge of 80 metres was proposed by PMC in 2011, to ‘safely’ remove the pedestrians from the streets. Although the work on overbridge was completed in the March of 2014, it opened for public a month later due to issues pertaining to code of conduct for Lok Sabha elections.

 

IMG 20171111 175512724 2

Vishrantwadi Chowk, Pune

A multi-wing bridge, it has three exit points, all of which have an accompanying flight of stairs (45 steps) and an elevator. Of the three lifts installed, only two are functioning. Waseer Sheikh, a liftman who sits outside the lift near the Ganesh Mandir end of the Chowk informs that one of the lifts has been non-functional for past 8 to 9 months. On being inquired about the action taken, he said that people from the Corporation come, take a look, and leave.

 

IMG 20171111 175622732

The unoperational lift at Vishrantwadi Chowk

Milind Jadhav, another liftman, who sits outside the same lift as Sheikh though in the morning shift (7am to 2pm) had an anecdote to share. He informed that a person was stuck in the lift about seven months back. In an attempt to rescue him, the Fire Brigade team broke open the lift door and it has not been functioning since. According to him, people from maintenance team have come a few times but nothing has been done. When asked about the liftman-in-charge of this particular elevator, Sheikh mentioned that he had been posted somewhere else by the company (Idea elevator).

 

IMG 20171113 095241592 2

Milind Jadhav, the liftman who works in the morning shift (7am to 3pm) at the Ganesh Mandir end of the Chowk

The two functioning elevators are not in great condition either. The fan inside both the lifts has not been working for about one year now, because of which the liftmen cannot sit inside. Consequently, two chairs are kept outside both the elevators which are used for sitting and keeping their belongings. There’s an alarm and call button inside the elevator, pressing which rings a bell to the telephone installed in a box outside the elevator. However, in case the liftman is not present (which can very well be a case for they often take breaks to get chai, water, food or attend to nature’s call), there’s no other way to reach someone. The users are not notified of any other emergency or helpline number inside the lift. Instead there’s a certificate pasted, which mentions the details and license for the working of the lift. An information board with all the required numbers is, in fact, placed outside the elevator. Additionally, there are few buttons like Stop and Start which are broken. Fortunately enough, both the working lifts were clean and well-lit.

The liftmen are paid a salary of 8,800 per month which, as Sheikh informed, is credited to their account by the 15th or 20th of the following month. They have to work 7 days a week. Jadhav stated that they have also been trained by the company, Idea Elevators, in rescuing people in case of a mishap. Curiously enough, unlike most guards, they were not in any uniforms.

Unsurprisingly, there are not many takers for this foot overbridge. During both evening and morning peak-hour time, one could easily find more people risking their lives to cross the street than taking a lift or flight of stairs to use the bridge. The usability result of this foot overbridge converged with the results of a survey done by Parisar, which showed a strong preference for at-grade crossing over using either FUBs or FOBs by pedestrians. The analysis also found that many of these facilities are poorly designed, particularly for the children and the elderly. 

 

IMG 20171111 175726959 2

 

According to the Urban Street Design Guidelines adopted by the city of Pune,

1. FOB or pedestrian subway should be considered only in very exceptional cases as a last option when all attempts to provide safe at grade crossing have failed. Final decision about grade separated crossing shall be based strictly on the findings of necessary scientific surveys and on satisfying stipulated warrants as per applicable codes and standards.

2. Subways and overhead bridges should be accessible for people with disabilities.

In addition to this, subways and foot overbridges wherever designed must be fully compliant with the Harmonised Guidelines and Space Standards for Barrier Free Built Environment for Persons with Disability and Elderly Persons, as required by law. The non-functioning elevator at the Vishrantwadi Chowk goes against the aforementioned requirements, reducing the already negligible mobility opportunities for children, elderly and the specially abled. 

Parisar conducted a study of total 11 lifts in Vishrantwadi and Kothrud areas, the results of which are as follows;

FOB observations.