How we can make Mysore pedestrian-friendly

TARLESUBBA and ARUN PADAKI write: In the documentary, “R.K. Narayan—India’s Chekov“, Narayan leisurely explains, that strolling through its cultural, natural, commercial and social landmarks, and enjoying the life around it—at the pace at which it moves—is the quintessential Mysore experience.

He observed that Mysore was designed to be walkable. It was designed to fire imaginations. Years later, though, misfiring pistons have captured the imagination of our city planners.

Interventions to calm and control these vehicles have slowly but steadily replaced what was once a pedestrian -friendly city to one that is inconvenient if not outright hostile to pedestrians. However, vehicles are our new reality, as are Seena, the Mysorean, and Bob, the tourist.

This is where the Mysore Heritage Trail comes in. It is a relatively low cost, high impact intervention, that would provide a safe, convenient, and sustainable pedestrian -friendly infrastructure towards sustain the charm of Mysore.

At a minimum, the trail will consist of elevated footpaths that are at least six feet wide and have distinctive leveled pavements. The trail should be barricaded from the road and be well lit. It should also have signs to landmarks, benches and garbage cans.

While it is conceptually a simple footpath network, serious effort will be needed to make this work. The key here is to strive for consistency and connectivity. For example, this means that the trail cannot disappear at intersections and intersections have to be deliberately designed for pedestrians by providing well-identified safe pedestrian crossings.

The key also is to recognize the primacy of the pedestrian in all city-planning decisions.

If done properly, apart from pedestrians, this would also benefit trail-side businesses. Further, this would form part of a “heritage hunt” for tourists. Tourists would saunter on these paths, using the distinctive pavement material of the trail as cue and come to discover heritage structures. Well made printed boards would briefly describe the heritage value of these treasures.

The image above is a suggestive schematic map of the trail. Eventually, the entire city could embody these pedestrian -friendly practices.

Can we generate some useful ideas in making this possible? Everything is open to discussion; benchmark issues and sustainability issues; path suggestions, material for footpaths, width, barricades, lighting, signages, finances, constraints of particular roads, community and business involvement. And, most importantly, how to get this done.