Making a City Walkable: Fix the Parking

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One can find large parts of the road occupied with parked vehicles. This forces people to walk on the carriageway.

One of the aims of public planning is to provide easy access for different people such children, senior citizens, and differently abled people. The benefits that walking and walkable areas can provide include community involvement, health, and recreation all of which have positive effects. Walkability is the basis of a sustainable city. When we talk about equitable share of road space, it means giving higher importance to walkability as well.

Since the last few years, the number of personal vehicles (e.g., cars, two-wheelers, etc.) owned by individuals in the cities are showing high growth rates. Especially in metropolitan cities like Pune, personal vehicles are preferred to unreliable public transport. The sheer increase in the number of vehicles on the road is the major cause of traffic congestion, parking issues and thus reduced walkability. Fixing the parking with an aim to increase walkability in the city is truly the need of the hour. This article focuses on how parking issues affect pedestrians in different ways and also about the possible solutions.

The Metropolitan Parking Scenario

Driving or walking in metropolitan cities like Mumbai and Pune has become a difficult, time consuming and tiring task due to the increased number of vehicles and mismanagement of roads, traffic, and parking. Parking especially is a daily hassle.

In cities where parking is a major issue, parking is either free or minimally charged and the charges are not regulated. This is a major reason for the parking struggle.

Usually, people want to park their vehicles as near as possible to their destination, be it office, market or other public spaces. Upon not finding such ideal parking spots, the vehicles are parked haphazardly, disregarding the traffic laws. People park vehicles on footpaths, in case of unavailability of on-street parking and many even drive the vehicles on the footpaths, because of the congested streets. This results in blocking the space for pedestrian movement.

There is no respect for the pedestrians’ right of way. As a result, pedestrians are forced to walk on the main carriage way, risking their lives, leading to accidents and deaths/injuries. The numbers of road casualties are increasing every year. According to the ‘Road Accident Data-2018’ [1], published by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) there has been an alarming rise (84%) in pedestrian deaths since 2015.

What can be done?

Functional Parking Policy:
The National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) [2] sets the tone for parking in India. According to NUTP, parking fees that represent the value of the land occupied by parked vehicles should be levied and that this in turn will encourage people to use public transport and non-motorized modes (walk and cycle).

Municipal laws (such as the Maharashtra Municipal Corporations Act) give wide ranging powers to the Commissioner to institute ‘pay and park’ on city roads and levy fees as set by the corporation. The Motor Vehicles Act 1988 [3] in addition to defining various restricted areas for parking (such as on bridges, cycle tracks and footpaths, near street corners, double-parking, parking in a way that will obstruct other traffic etc.) also allows the Police to designate other ‘No Parking’ zones. The Act also provides powers to the police to jam/tow vehicles illegally parked and recover full costs of towing in addition to the fines. This shows that we have policy level provisions for parking. All we need is to enforce them effectively.

Pune even has a parking policy (with a zone-based parking fee formula determined by parking demand in the area), but it is yet to be implemented.

On-street Parking:
Unregulated on-street parking can worsen traffic congestion. It also creates pedestrian safety issues, since the tendency of parking till intersections/crossings create blind spots in motorists’/pedestrians' sight of vision increasing the chances of a crash.

When vehicles are parked on the streets in an orderly manner in specially designed parking bays with kerb extensions and bulb-outs at intersections/ crossings and property entrances, it helps in slowing down the vehicle speed and reduces the effective crossing width for the pedestrians. Because of these two reasons, the chances of conflict between pedestrians and vehicles are reduced considerably, enhancing their safety. This also solves the problem of convenience for the vehicle owners as well as improves traffic discipline on streets which also eases-out the traffic chaos to some extent.

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The example above is from Pune’s Aundh DP Road showing the kerb extension to restrict parking near intersections/ crossings for pedestrian safety and designed parking bays to regulate on street parking. Such designs actually increase compliance and reduce the burden on the traffic enforcement agencies, who are in short supply.

Similarly, there is another pattern of on-street parking system which is the P1 / P2 system (parking on odd/ even dates on either side of the road) and is currently implemented in Pune on undivided streets. One can park only on one side of the street, dependent on the odd / even date, making that side a restricted area for parking and the other side is free for transport.

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Vehicles parked in the P1/P2 system, Pune.

But this P1/P2 system also has some flaws since the safety of the pedestrians is not addressed and neither does it help in solving traffic congestion This system also requires enforcement.

Pay and Park:
In many cities, parking is available either for free or at a very nominal charge and it is not time-bound. People are then not bothered about traffic congestion, inconvenience caused and are insensitive to the fact that other people also may need the parking space. Making the parking available after payment will make them more responsible. The pay and park system can be made available in two ways:

Time-based parking: ‘Pay by the hour parking’ strategy is implemented in all airports and many malls and it works wonders. Such strategy can also be very effective in the cities, in both, the on-street and the off-street parking. In this scheme, the short-term parking would be encouraged, and the charges would be high in case the parking is used for longer hours. This is also known as Telescopic pay and park system where the charges go higher in multiples of certain higher ratios based on duration of parking.

Demand-based parking: On-street parking can be made sensitive to the demand. One type is the demand based on time. For example, during office hours, demand for the on-street parking is very high. So, during, say, 8AM-6PM the parking charges would be higher than the rest of the day. Another type is the demand based on areas. In certain areas, (e.g., proximity to the railway stations, office clusters, malls etc.) usually there is a high demand for parking. So, the charges there would be higher than the rest of the city.

Parklets are the parking spaces that are reclaimed and transformed into community spaces for people. For example, the footpaths are made wider with benches, seat-outs, planters, etc. and various kinds of street furniture.

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Above example shows how the reclaimed parking spaces are used for community spaces in the form of parklets, same has been done at few locations on Jangli Maharaj road, Pune.

These are small parts of residential streets reclaimed by the community for people to stop, rest and enjoy. They are not just symbolic reclamation of space. They provide resting spaces, pause points and socializing spaces, making it possible for people to walk double the distance they would normally do. It not only helps in streamlining the parking but also encourages pedestrian activity. A working example of this in Pune is the D. P. Road in Aundh and JM Road. The footpaths are wider on these streets and have resting areas, artwork, kids play zones, and plantations. On both sides of the road there are vehicle parking spaces (these are also called parking bays). A number of people can be seen enjoying a walk on the footpaths without having to worry about traffic.

To Summarize

The Smart Cities Mission was launched to make our cities citizen friendly and sustainable. There are several issues concerning a city, and reduced walkability due to haphazard vehicle parking is one of them. It is an important issue that deserves more attention from the concerned authorities.

Parking space is a scarce commodity and the best way to deal with it is by charging the right price for it. Limited availability of parking space and the levy of a high parking fee can curb the use of personal motor vehicles. This can be done through the right parking policy.

Introduction of parklets with spacious footpaths is a nice way to encourage walkability through the city without the fear of traffic. The Bombay High Court also has said – “No city can be called smart city unless it has reasonably good footpaths” (PIL – 71.13, High Court in Its own Motion vs State of Maharashtra and Ors).

Working on the parking issues, thus, may result in less vehicles on the roads, that would lead to low and disciplined traffic, less congestion, and also reduced parking related violations. This would in turn create a safer environment for pedestrians encouraging more pedestrian activity on the streets. This would be a positive step towards making a city walkable.

Let’s all come together for this cause and make it a mass movement, so that it will be noticed by the concerned authorities and will be put into the political agenda for implementation. Record a small video of the illegally parked vehicles on the streets or footpaths in your city and share it with us on social media tagging the concerned city level authority with a hashtag: #FixtheParking.




Article by Suraj Jaipurkar, Parisar

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