NEW DELHI: A study by Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IITD), which evaluated the walkability of streets in the city during extreme heat conditions, has found that less than 33% of the areas assessed had both footpaths and were shaded.
The study, “Are our streets meant for walking in extreme heat?” by IITD’s Transportation Research and Injury Prevention Centre (TRIPC), evaluated 17 kms of streets across ten areas in Delhi, including Chhatarpur, Hauz Khas, Inderpuri, Kishangarh, Mehrauli, Munirka, Rajouri, R K Puram, Vasant Kunj and Vasant Vihar.
The study focused on various factors such as walkability, the presence of green infrastructure, shading and recorded temperature and humidity levels. Of the total streets audited in Delhi, 48% were lanes or less than 10m wide, 13% were local streets or were 10-20m wide, and 31% were collector roads or 20-30m wide.
The findings revealed that a significant portion of the audited streets, amounting to over 67%, lacked adequate shading, which can significantly impact the comfort and safety of pedestrians during periods of intense heat. The study also noted that shade from the buildings in the lanes was among the factors contributing to the difference in temperatures.
“The street in Munirka has a higher building-height-to-street-width ratio than Mehrauli, therefore, is mostly shaded throughout the day, providing an experience more thermally comfortable to pedestrians. Since the maximum vehicular speed in lanes is less than 20 kmph, pedestrians can walk safely in varied traffic conditions,” the study noted, adding that of all the streets, excluding lanes, 83% have footpaths, and 65% have trees.
“Of these (streets excluding lanes), only 33% had both footpaths and were shaded by trees. These are the streets in Vasant Kunj, Vasant Vihar, and R K Puram. Because the streets in Vasant Kunj and R K Puram are mostly shaded by trees, the temperatures there are lower than those recorded in Mehrauli,” stated the study.
It observed, “67% of the audited streets that are not shaded by buildings do not have footpaths or trees”. The study also pointed out factors such as quality of footpaths, pavements, cleanliness, and maintenance, which impacts the walkability of the footpaths.
“The hike in temperature makes the need to ensure a comfortable walking experience more critical. Provision of amenities like water kiosks, water misting stations and seating areas that could help commuters manage in high temperatures have become an urgent necessity… People commuting on foot are most exposed to extreme temperatures. Studies conducted in urban areas show that street design, environment, green infrastructure like trees, shrubs and green belts and blue infrastructure like ponds, lakes and rivers help to regulate microclimates,” stated Deepty Jain, assistant professor at IIT Delhi who along with Shabnam Khan authored the study.
The study suggested the several solutions are needed to address this situation, with the provision of amenities and shaded environments topping the list.