Pedestrians prefer to risk their lives and cross roads because underpasses are unsafe and dirty.
Pedestrian underpasses at Swami Vivekananda Circle in Bomannahalli, KR Circle and Ambedkar Veedhi are unsanitary and cannot be used. They are used as urinals, hubs for drinking alcohol and garbage dumps. These underpasses are the few that are open.
Over 20 pedestrian underpasses in the city, more than 16 are closed, said a Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) assistant officer from the Traffic Engineering Cell (TEC).
Two women attempting to cross the road alongside Swami Vivekananda circle, Bomannahalli said, “We wait 10 to 15 minutes to cross the road. I wish to take the underpass as it would be faster and so much easier, but I am afraid of going inside a dark, unclean place.” One of them added, “I am late for work and delayed on my way back home because I am unable to use the pedestrian underpass.”
New boards are put up near the entrance of the underpasses on the subway linking Bomannahlli to Electronic City stating the offences that are prohibited. They include dumping of garbage, drinking in the underpass, stealing, chain snatching and smoking. In other open underpasses like the ones at Ambedkar Veedhi and K.R. Circle, the sign boards were visible only for a few days, said two passersby.
An officer from the BBMP health department said, “There are boards for people to follow. This initiative should bring awareness. Garbage piling up and alcohol cartons will attract rodents.”
A resident who has complained about the underpass in Vivekananada Circle said, “I am surprised no action is taken against people who use the underpass as a drinking place, after all it is the responsibility of the police department to look out for offenders and punish them on the spot.”
A police officer from Bomannahalli police station said, “If there are any complaints regarding violation in public spaces police can be called on the line 121. There will be immediate help.”
Another resident had complained to the BBMP office about the dumping of garbage in the same underpass. She said, “I live in an apartment nearby, I notice garbage being tossed into the underpass during my morning walks. It stays there for a long while and turns into a foul smelling pile. I have barely seen the BBMP garbage collectors come this way to clear the place.”
The BBMP health department officer said, “We check with the garbage clearance department when there are complaints.”
Efforts have been made in the past to keep the subways usable and clean to the extent that musical bands used to perform in the subways.
The policy paper for pedestrian movement in Bengaluru by the Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) has mentioned that “Foot over bridges or subways are not successful as people avoid taking these structures due to the associated problems like poor lighting and hygienic conditions.”
According to the DULT proposal for the building of underpasses and over bridges, the primary use of pedestrian subways is to help citizens cross heavy traffic roads which can save people from potential accidents.