Mumbai to Combat Gridlock with Skywalks

It’s onward and upward for Mumbai. The tightly packed Indian city (population: 13,662,885) will soon be home to more than 50 “skywalks”—elevated sidewalks that sprout from the city’s train stations and allow pedestrians to avoid the traffic-choked roads, many of which are without sidewalks. “Skywalks are quick to build, relatively inexpensive, and only require land the city already controls,” writes Eric Bellman in The Wall Street Journal, which offers a wee stippled rendering of a skywalk along with photos. Plus the city plans to recover the $300 million tab for the skywalks project by selling advertising space on them. So everyone’s happy, right? Of course not. Retailers are grumbling about the drop in foot traffic, while residents complain that the skywalks obscure views and encourage the curious to sneak a peak into private homes. And then there are the design challenges:

While the walkways run over government roads, there still often isn’t space on the ground to plant enough supporting columns. Longer stretches between columns mean the city has to spend more on stronger, lighter materials and thicker columns. Commuters found the early skywalks too boxy and bright, so new ones use curved roofs, dark colors and chrome.

When engineers started digging to build the foundations, they found the chaos on the street continues underground. A few feet down, they ran into uncharted water, electricity, and phone lines as well as sewers, forcing them to redesign whole skywalks. Trying to get the city water authorities or state-run telephone company to shift infrastructure would take too long.

On the bright side? A promising candidate for a Mumbai skywalk mascot has emerged, as the locals have dubbed the first bright, twisting structure “the yellow caterpillar.” Paging Eric Carle!