After street widening in Chennai

Two thirds of Chennai’s population travel on foot, bike or public transport. There is a lack of infrastructure for the low-income groups who are more likely to walk or cycle. 

Chennai is a coastal city prone to extreme climate events including cyclones and flooding the city’s dated infrastructure is not resilient to this. The Institute for Transport Development Policy (ITDP) has been working with the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) since 2013 to improve Chennai’s streets for pedestrians and cyclists. 

“We commute to school by public buses. It’s a ten-minute walk from the nearest bus stop. We feel very safe on the footpath from the speeding motor vehicles as there are bollards placed regularly. We also feel comfortable during the monsoons as the tree-cover protects us from mild showers and the footpath is generally clear of water-logging, which used to be an issue before the footpath was constructed.”

School Children, Harrington Road.

The Institute for Transport Development Policy (ITDP) - India Programme has been working with the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) since 2013 to improve Chennai’s streets for pedestrians and cyclists.

They have helped Chennai develop India’s first Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) policy which was adopted in 2014 and provided advice on governance including organising stakeholder consultations, conducting inter-agency sub-committee meetings for project implementation and the formation of any special projects team. The GCC has allocated a considerable portion of its transport budget towards developing walking and cycling facilities in the city, on course to achieve its target of 60% allocation as set forth in the NMT Policy.

They have also worked to change attitudes to non-motorised transport through car-free Sundays, tactical urbanism and through several education programmes for policymakers.

They have provided technical support to Chennai to introduce over 120km of pavements, a public bike-sharing scheme, and an on-street parking management system. They are working towards a target of transforming over a 1000km of streets to be safe and accessible for pedestrians and cyclists by 2030.

They have also been reducing the embodied carbon associated with new pavements by encouraging the city to build with better quality materials and by integrating utilities as part of the street network. The street design now allows for stormwater management to protect road infrastructure better as well as ducts to protect utilities.

ITDP’s Complete Streets Framework Toolkit encapsulates lessons from Chennai and this has been endorsed and promoted by the national government for use in 100 cities as part of the National Smart Cities Mission.

ITDP’s work with GCC is reducing air pollution, improving health and increasing pedestrian safety.

ITDP’s work in Chennai is also providing safer conditions for poorer people who are more likely to walk or cycle. Better last mile connectivity provides better access to employment and education. Improvements such as better lighting increase safety of women travellers.

The public bike-share scheme has been designed to increase first and last mile connectivity to public transport. Street redesign has been accompanied by improvements to public facilities especially, for often overlooked parts of the society such as women, children and the physically challenged e.g. new lighting, play areas, murals and street furniture to better accommodate women, children and people with disabilities.