The Indian city of Chennai has adopted a policy to prioritize walking and cycling and discourage the use of motorized vehicles, renewing the city’s approach to transportation.

With more than 10,000 traffic crashes reported every year, Chennai has one of the highest rates of road deaths in India. In 2012, the city government launched the Chennai Street Design Project to address this problem. This project aims to reclaim the city’s streets for pedestrians and cyclists by prioritizing modes of transport other than private automobiles.

The policy requires at least 60% of the city’s transport budget be allocated to constructing and maintaining infrastructure for non-motorized transit. This includes widening sidewalks, building safe bicycle infrastructure, better managing intersections, and even implementing street furniture. By 2018, the city aims to have built safe and continuous footpaths on at least 80% of all streets, increase the share of walking and cycling trips to more than 40%, and, most significantly, eliminate pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

24% of CO2 emissions from transport will be reduced by 2018

The challenge

Despite a lack of safe infrastructure for non-motorized transport, one-third of all trips in the city are already made on foot and bicycle. Chennai Street Design Project will ensure that these trips become safer, healthier, and more enjoyable through a redesigned urban transportation network.


Economic The initiative will limit the cost of road crashes in India, which the government estimates to be about 3% of the country’s GDP.

Environmental By promoting walking and cycling, the new streets encourage more residents to walk, which limits automobile usage and contributes to a cleaner, less polluted city.

Health Active transportation increases physical activity and improves health while contributing to better quality of life.

Social The initiative ensures that street space is accessible and available for all citizens regardless of age, class, gender, or physical abilities.

About Chennai

Chennai is the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and is one of the biggest cultural, economic and educational centres in South India. As a growing metropolitan city in a developing country, Chennai confronts substantial pollution and other logistical and socio-economic problems. National Geographic ranked Chennai’s food as second best in the world; it was the only Indian city to feature in the list. Chennai was also named the ninth-best cosmopolitan city in the world by Lonely Planet. Chennai has been selected as one of the 100 Indian cities to be developed as a smart city under PM Narendra Modi’s flagship Smart Cities Mission.

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