The unsafe roads near schools

Sat, 15/02/2020 - 08:52

The viral video on social media a few months back of an elderly couple stopping two-wheelers in Bangalore from riding on the footpath is an illustration of the perilous situation pedestrians experience every single day on India’s roads. Pedestrian areas are gradually being taken over by vehicles. Also increased motorisation has led to a surge in road traffic crashes. The data provided by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways is alarming. As per the Ministry’s recently released, Road Accidents in India 2018 report, 1,51,417 persons were killed in 2018 on Indian roads. This amounts to 415 deaths every single day. Vulnerable road users (two-wheelers, non-motorised vehicles, and pedestrians) constitute 53.9% of these fatalities of which pedestrians and cyclists account for 15% and 2.4% of deaths respectively. There is no data available on the number of child fatalities near schools. However the National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) report on Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India for the year 2016 reported 11,812 deaths in India due to road crashes near educational institutions. One of the reasons attributed for the high fatalities in this age group is their lack of experience; they are prone to bad judgments i.e. risk-taking, thus getting involved in road traffic crashes. 

As schools are considered the second home, there is a need to ensure that children can safely travel to and from school. To find out whether the roads near the school are safe for children, we examined eight schools in different areas of Chennai (north and south). We chose Santhome, Mylapore, Anna Nagar and Perambur. It was also ensured that they were a mix of private and government schools. While four schools were located on main roads, the remaining four schools were situated inside residential colonies. The roads in a one km radius around these schools were physically assessed for footpath infrastructure, nature of road crossing zones, and road signs. The school management was contacted and short interviews were conducted to understand the road safety challenges faced by the school.

The list of schools that was surveyed are as follows:

Sl. No.

Name of school

Location

1.

Railway Mixed Hr. Sec. School

Perambur

2.

Guild of Service Home for Children

Anna Nagar West

3.

SBOA School and Junior College

Anna Nagar West

4.

Kendriya Vidyalaya

Thirumangalam

5.

Salesian Sisters Our Lady’s Centre

Chetpet

6.

Corporation Hr. Sec. School (CHS) V.P. Koil Street

Mylapore

7.

M.CT.M. Chidambaram Chettyar Matric. Hr. Sec. School

Mylapore

8.

Rosary Matriculation Hr. Sec. School

Santhome

 

And what did we find?

 Footpath infrastructure:

During the pavement assessment we noticed that footpaths around schools were encroached upon for various activities such as unauthorized parking, trash collection, and by roadside eateries and small traders. Footpaths around schools had no continuous surveillance by the police or CCTV cameras. Ironically they have become a haven for everything but walking - for which it was constructed. In five out of eight locations the footpath has been modified for entry and exit points for residential or commercial spaces making the footpath uneven and hindering the movement of pedestrians. If any work is carried out at these locations it must be the responsibility of the residential owner to ensure that there is no inconvenience caused to the pedestrian. Also five out of eight schools had footpath slabs that were damaged. Another issue that was observed was the footpath being taken over by homeowners and apartments for landscaping.

Encroachment:

Parking on the footpath was noticed in seven out of eight schools. This was one of the major impediments for people, forcing them to walk on the roads.

Two-wheelers parked on the footpath near SBOA School, Anna Nagar

 

It was also noticed that in five out of eight schools, transformers and EB boxes took up large stretches of the pavements.

Road crossing locations:

Road crossing is one of the perilous parts of the journey for a child while going to school or returning. However just one out of eight schools had a zebra crossing that was clearly marked.  As a case in point, Kendriya Vidyalaya, Anna Nagar had no pedestrian crossing as it was blocked by the divider of the Grand Northern Trunk Road. Children and parents are forced to take a long detour around the Koyembedu Kamaraj flyover to reach their school. To avoid this, children tend to jump over the median to cross the road.  Likewise Railway Mixed Higher Secondary School, Perambur wanted a speed breaker and zebra crossing on the loco shed road opposite the school as vehicles were not relenting when children cross the road, causing crashes.

Road signs:

Road signs conveying school ahead, speed limits, or no honking zone were lacking in almost all the schools. Road signs conveying school ahead or zebra crossing were seen only at SBOA School, Anna Nagar, and St Raphael’s Hr. Sec. School at Santhome.

While assessing the road safety at these schools there were some specific issues we noticed. For example Kendriya Vidyalaya, Anna Nagar, urgently requires a road crossing zone or at least a foot over bridge/ subway for pedestrians to cross the road. It's best to have at grade pedestrian crossings as foot over bridges/subways are generally disliked by pedestrians as they have to climb steps. Often pedestrians ignore such infrastructure and prefer to take their chances with traffic. At V.P. Koil Street, the footpath near the Corporation Hr. Sec. School was encroached by automobiles and road side traders. Also it was noticed in four out of eight schools that the footpaths adjoining the schools are used as waste collection points for the locality. 

What can be  done:

While greater enforcement and awareness would have a positive impact on improving road safety, it's crucial to have greater people participation. School management committees that have school management and parents as its members must meet regularly and take up issues related to road safety apart from children’s education. This would create accountability within the government to improve road safety infrastructure around schools. With the setting up of road safety clubs in schools, children are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of road safety. Local regional transport offices must continuously engage these clubs through awareness programmes and competitions. Road traffic crashes cause deaths and disability and are largely preventable. Also as roads become increasingly unsafe, children become inactive as they are less likely to walk, cycle, or take public transport contributing to the non-communicable disease burden such as respiratory and lifestyle diseases in the country. 

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