Civic group to march today for making Ring Road ‘accessible to all’Campaigners say the Koteshwar-Kalanki stretch has many flaws and they should not be repeated in Kalanki-Maharajgunj section.
People with disabilities, cyclists, environmentalists and artists are organising a ‘Civic concern march’ in the Capital on Saturday to pressure the authorities to make the 8.2 km Kalanki-Maharajgunj section of the Ring Road friendly for disabled persons, cyclists and pedestrians.
The march will start from Narayangopal Chowk and end at the nearby Sankha Park, where they will organise a function involving poetry recitation, live painting to create awareness, and live music, among other activities.
The civic group, which has been advocating human-centric road infrastructure, submitted memorandums to two ministers this week. The memorandums signed by over 100 members of the public were handed over to Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Renu Kumari Yadav on Monday and Minister for Urban Development Ram Kumari Jhankri on Wednesday.
On December 25, the group had prepared a joint memorandum of demands requesting the government and stakeholders to make the 8.2 km road section, which is being widened, friendly for all users besides vehicles. Since the road-widening project is being implemented by the Chinese government, the team also plans to submit a separate memo to the Chinese embassy to draw its attention towards their concerns.
“Both the ministers have positively responded to our concerns,” said Tara Lal Shrestha, one of the campaigners who is also a lecturer at the Central Department of English at the Tribhuvan University.
“They made various mistakes in the first phase of the Ring Road widening project. The project’s design solely aimed at reducing fuel consumption with only vehicles in mind and ignored other road users, but the second phase project must address the least privileged groups such people with disability, women, children and cyclists,” said Shrestha at a press meet in Kathmandu on Friday.
“The new road section should be accessible to all kinds of road users including those with disabilities and cyclists. It should have underpasses, public toilets, zebra crossing, bus stations, pedestrian road, in line with the global road design demarcation,” reads the press statement issued on Friday after a press meet.
The statement further states that the second phase of the expansion work should follow the recommendations made by the safety audit team in its preliminary phase.
Urban planners, cyclists and commuters have long been saying that the first phase of the Ring Road widening project was carried out without considering the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and disabled persons. The 10.5 km Kalanki-Koteshwar road section started witnessing many road accidents after it was officially handed over to the Department of Roads in 2019, for it lacked various safety and accessibility infrastructure like zebra crossings, traffic lights, cycle lanes and road medians.
Meanwhile, Bhoj Raj Shrestha, a wheelchair user and a disability rights activist said the motive of the march is to make everyone aware of their right to ‘mobility in a safe and secure environment.’
The Chinese government handed over the eight-lane Koteshwar-Kalanki section of the Ring Road to the government in January 2019. The road section was completed in five years at the cost of Rs5.13 billion.
“Even though we launched joint protests against the faulty design, nobody listened, now our concern is not to let repeat the same problem in the new section and we are trying to reawaken each and every individual regarding the issue,” said Sailendra Dangol, a cycling activist and founder of Cycle City Network Nepal.
To prepare the ground for the second phase of road widening from Kalanki to Maharajgunj, the Kathmandu Ring Road Improvement Project under the Department of Roads, in October, 2019, started felling trees along the roadside.
The plan to chop down over 2,000 trees drew widespread criticism from environmentalists and urban planners. The authorities also faced a pushback from landowners who have refused to sell their properties to make way for the road widening project. The authorities are yet to complete the land acquisition process.
Dristi Shrestha one of the coordinators of the Saturday march said in the one-kilometer stretch between Maharajgung and Sankhapark, artists will be live painting to highlight the importance of ‘human friendly roads.’ “There will also be a wheelchair dance with live musical performance,” said Shrestha.
The march will start at 1:30 pm from Narayangopal Chowk in front of Bhatbhateni supermarket, according to the organisers.