Governments could improve the driving experience in Trivandrum by using infrastructure, paint, and signage to distinguish space for different modes. Officials should plan transportation for the future by prioritizing sustainable transportation modes in new infrastructure.
In Still Stuck in Traffic chapter “Traffic Congestion around the World,” Anthony Downs asserts that as countries develop and income levels rise, people will opt to improve their lot by rising in the hierarchy of modes. The greater the distance that can be traveled within an average daily travel allowance (an hour to an hour and a half for most people in the world), choice of route, and carrying capacity, the higher the mode ranks in the hierarchy. The theory is that as a person’s income increases, he or she will climb up in the hierarchy: a pedestrian buys a bike; a cyclist buys a bus pass; a bus-rider buys a motorcycle; a biker buys a car; a car owner buys a bigger, faster car. On the macro scale, we have witnessed the phenomenal rise of automobile infrastructure, ownership, and congestion with the rise of national GDP the world over. The nations who take exception to this rule have done so by prioritizing more sustainable modes at a policy and planning level in government.
Walking when we consider travel by wheelchair or some other assistance in the same modal category is the most democratic form of transportation, because it excludes no one. Walking is also beneficial to community, general safety, the environment, health, and commerce. Therefore, prioritizing the construction, maintenance, and improvement of pedestrian infrastructure supports the interest of the largest and broadest umbrella of stakeholders.
Specific suggestions include building sidewalks where they do not exist, broadening existing sidewalks where possible, repairing existing sidewalks where needed, installing street furniture, such as benches, tables, and chairs where possible, install lighting on the sidewalk, planting street trees wherever possible and including street trees in the design of new or widened sidewalks. Street trees serve to give shade, improve air quality, calm traffic, and encourage walking by giving pedestrians a sense of enclosure. Street furniture and lighting also encourage walking by improving the pedestrian experience.
As Trivandrum develops, it need not follow the path to auto-centrism. Capacity on the roads will need to increase, but road-widening is not the only way to do this. Any road-widening should be kept to a minimum and stringently avoid the displacement of existing homes and businesses. Keeping roads narrow will keep traffic calm and pedestrian-friendly. Enforcing a speed limit of 30 mph (approximately 50 km/hour) on local roads will statistically reduce the number of fatal crashes (as per a New York City Department of Transportation study). Capacity can be increased by dedicating lanes to bicycles and improving bus stops with covers and benches to encourage efficient space utilization on the roadway. Cycling, which is space-efficient, environment-freindly, and supports good health, can be encouraged by providing infrastructure for it, including bike racks, painted lanes, and signage. Where the width of the road permits demarcating dedicated bus lanes can improve the capacity, speed, and reliability of public transportation. On narrower roads, but wide enough to permit it, lanes for rickshaws and motorcycles could improve traffic flow as well.