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PMC’s school travel improvement plan to provide safe commute for children

The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is planning to implement innovative methods to enable students to commute independently to and from school. The idea is to make roads safer for children and encourage pupils to cycle or walk to school, use public transport and at the same time decongest traffic on city roads during peak hours.

In July this year, the civic body announced a design competition for city-based sensitive urban designers and planners to find ‘implementable ideas’ that can help reduce traffic and improve safety near schools.

According to PMC data, currently, 4% of students cycle to school whereas 21% of students use private vehicles (two-wheelers and cars) in Pune. This situation is alarming and this change in travel behaviour is adversely affecting city’s health and traffic and needs to be reversed, say experts.

Several areas where schools are located, witness traffic chaos during peak hours when schools start and get over. The PMC, through this plan, intends to decongest roads around school areas during morning and evening hours.

A PMC official said the civic body has allotted one crore for the plan. As of now, around nine professionals have registered for the competition. They will be given one and a half months to submit their proposals.

“A jury will assess the submissions. By Diwali, three best teams will be chosen and awarded 5 lakhs each. Their ideas will be trailed with or without changes, in December, for feedback. Before the end of this financial year in March, at least one of the proposals will be implemented,” said Nikhil Mijar, transport panner with PMC.

Under the plan, PMC has divided the city into nine high-priority zones based on school concentration – Deccan Gymkhana, Hadapsar, Lohegaon-Dhanori, Kothrud, Vadgaon-Budruk, Parvati-Bibwewadi, Pashan, Kondhwa and Kharadi. The participants can choose any of these zones and create a ‘context-based, practical design solution’ which is ‘easy to implement, low cost and requires less maintenance’. The proposal should include traffic management measures, a parking management plan, public participation and stakeholder consultation, a non-motorised transit infrastructure improvement plan, etc.

Unlike earlier, parents are now unwilling to allow children to cycle or walk to school. Mijar said, “Back in my time, most children came to school on bicycles, making it hard to identify one’s cycle from the sea of cycles that were parked in school. But today the situation is different.”

Parents quote a series of reasons, from pollution to traffic, for not letting their wards commute independently.

Sunil Shivale, who is a teacher at New English School, Ramanbaug, said, “Parents do not want their ward to commute independently for various safety reasons.”

Usha, a parent of two school-going children, said, “Media reports about crimes have made us apprehensive about sending children alone to school. There needs to be a secure and strict system against crimes involving children. My child’s school is at a fifteen minutes distance, but we prefer that he uses the school bus. There is also the suspicion of drug dealers in and around schools.”

Milind M Naik, principal of Jnana Prabodhini Prashala in Sadashiv Peth, said,” At least 50% of students here from Classes 8 to 10 cycle to school. If the PMC implements the school travel improvement plan it will not only help to control traffic but commuting independently can also contribute to the overall personality development of students.”

Mijar added that first, the mindset has to change and then there should be a well-set system that can help students to commute safely. “Emergency services, helplines, calmer streets, more trees for shades, support from school authorities and an empathetic general public, etc can go a long way in making this possible,” he said.

He said that with increasing car owners and decreasing family sizes, we cannot keep building flyovers and expanding roads. “We need to find latent passive measures that can effectively reduce the congestion. Many countries like US and Canada are already using similar guidelines for student safety and traffic control,” he said.

Important dates

Registration ended on July 31

Notification sent to selected teams on August 1

Design proposal submission date: September 12

Notification to be sent to selected teams: September 16 (tentative)

Jury date: September 23 (tentative)

Winner announcement: September 30 (Tentative)

Felicitation: October

Submission of working/ tender/ drawings and concept report for trial: October

On ground trial: November/December

(Source: PMC website)

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