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Weekend traffic ban on Church Street goes, for now

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Uncertainty looms over the Church Street pedestrianisation project as its original proponents have backed out after the six-month trial period ended two weeks ago. It’s now up to the BBMP to continue the project. 

The project, launched on November 6, 2020, entailed a complete ban on vehicular traffic through the party hub on weekends to improve its air quality. The Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) implemented the project under the Clean Air Street initiative funded by the Catapult Network, a UK-based organisation. The project was originally supposed to end after four months (in March 2021) but the DULT extended the trial period until May 31 following public support for reserving streets for pedestrians on weekends. 

After the expiry of the trial period, vehicular traffic on Church Street was not affected on the last two weekends, signalling an end to the ban on the movement of motor vehicles. 

DULT Commissioner V Manjula said the project had been handed over to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). “The BBMP managed it in April with minimal support from the DULT before the lockdown. We have written to the BBMP to carry it forward,” she said. 

At the BBMP, senior officials in the projects division who are to look into the initiative said they were not aware of the development. “If we get instructions, we will write to the police seeking their help to ban the traffic,” an official said. 

While the project was widely hailed for transforming Church Street into a weekend family getaway, area residents criticised it for restricting their movements. 

The Church Street Residents’ Welfare Association welcomed the end of the project. Its president Ramasastry Ambarish said the project had inconvenienced them so much that they almost dragged the DULT to court. 

The association had welcomed the project’s vision but demanded that officials should not restrict the movement of vehicles until the apartments in the area are provided with alternative access roads. 

“Before the second wave, we had hired a lawyer to file a lawsuit against the DULT. It was put off due to the lockdown. We hope the BBMP will talk to us before taking steps which infringe on our fundamental rights,” he said. 

In January, the Indian Institute of Science had assessed the project’s impact on air quality and said the PM 2.5 levels had dropped by 70%-90% during weekends. Ambarish, however, said a detailed study should be conducted by parties not involved in the project. 

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