Having successfully created over 100 km of Complete Streets with wide and vibrant footpaths, Chennai is now expanding its efforts! The city aims to create a master plan for a city-wide network of streets for walking and cycling, along with adopting Street Design Guidelines to guide all future projects.
“The engineering team in Chennai has already been involved in many street redesign projects and has a lot of ideas. The stage is set, now we just need to scale up the work and transform Chennai with a Non-Motorised Transport master plan,” said the newly appointed Commissioner of Greater Chennai Corporation G Prakash, IAS, at an internal kick-off workshop on 8 March, 2019.
The day-long workshop, held by the Greater Chennai Corporation with technical support from the ITDP India Programme, was set with a dual agenda. Firstly, it aimed to establish the vision for Chennai to create a Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) master plan and to identify the process to develop the same. Secondly, it aimed at the dissemination of information from the design guidelines to the engineers and officials from various departments of the city.
Through a hands-on and participatory exercise, participants were able to give feedback to improvise the guidelines. The workshop brought together over 60 participants, comprising of engineers and officials from different departments of the Greater Chennai Corporation.
All global metropolitans, including Indian ones, are waking to the realisation that it is imperative to prioritise walking and cycling while planning cities. To quote placemaking pioneer Fred Kent, “If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.”
“With over 100 km of streets reclaimed for pedestrians and cyclists, Chennai is certainly on the right track of prioritising people over motorised transport,” said L Nandakumar, chief engineer of the Greater Chennai Corporation, while presenting various street transformations and laurels the city has achieved over the years.
The need for an NMT master plan was highlighted by Aswathy Dilip, Senior Programme Manager at the ITDP India Programme, who spoke of the requirement for bringing a network approach in the planning of projects in the city. This will help scale up the existing projects, ensuring the street transformations are not scattered and instead done in a holistic manner. An NMT master plan will ensure the promotion of environmentally friendly modes that encourage healthy lifestyles. It will also contribute to social equity by improving accessibility to work and home for all cross sections of the society.
The proposed approach for the Chennai NMT master plan is in line with the Tamil Nadu Mega Streets Programme, that plans to redesign 1,600 km of roads across ten corporations in the state.
Chennai Street Design Guidelines
Over the past few years, Chennai has been taking great efforts to create safe, walkable, and livable streets that cater to all user groups. Known as Complete Streets, these are designed with wide and continuous footpaths, safe pedestrian crossings, dedicated cycle tracks (where applicable), conveniently placed bus stops, clearly designated on-street parking, organised street vending, and properly-scaled carriageways.
With many more streets in the pipeline to be redesigned by the Greater Chennai Corporation, the NMT master plan looks to drive this vision through with a set of guidelines to direct the design and implementation process. The main focus being to improve the user experience and ensure seamless connectivity. As a result, the state is planning to adopt the Chennai Street Design Guidelines—which draws from various Indian Roads Congress guidelines and also from the city’s own learnings from its street design experience.
The guidelines aim to create streets for all users. It is intended for urban designers and most importantly, government officials and citizens who look to inhabit better quality urban environment and bring back life into our city streets. For this purpose, the design guide identifies the different functions of streets and emphasises the need for complete streets that accommodates all.
Besides the step-by-step design process chart, the guidelines offer designers a checklist of information to be collected prior to designing the street. It also highlights the various elements that form a complete street. Through street and intersection templates, one can get a sense of how different elements come together to create different types and sizes of streets.
To better understand the concept of Complete Streets, the engineers, at the workshop, were engaged through a hands on exercise to use the guidelines to redesign a city stretch. As interest grew in the exercise so did the valuable feedbacks, which have been noted and the ITDP India Programme will work to improve suitably.
In 2014, Chennai set an example for the rest of the country by adopting the non-motorised transport (NMT) policy. It sent out a clear message: Chennai prioritised its people over cars. By creating a master plan for a city-wide Complete Streets network and adopting the Street Design Guidelines, the city is adding more feathers to its already illustrious cap. These moves reflect Chennai’s commitment to create safe streets that consider the needs of all users.
Written by A V Venugopal
Edited by Rohit James and Kashmira Medhora Dubash