Under the (Fly)Over

If you actually remember the lovely restaurant at Kemp’s Corner, which was the precursor to all things Indigo…man, you are old! And no this article is not about that at all!

It’s amazing how things can sometimes turn a full circle!

A few weeks ago, in response to one of my articles on the deterioration of Matunga, Dr. G. Venkataraman sent me an email saying, “My most important feeling about Matunga is the death of the middle road in Vincent Road where myself and my wife walked many times without brushing against anyone”. Vincent Road is what Ambedkar Road used to be called in the olden days. In the 60s and 70s, the tramway used to go through the middle of the road from King’s Circle to Dadar TT (tram terminus) and prior to that I guess people used to be able to walk in the middle of the road.

These days, if anyone were to talk about walking along the middle of a main arterial road, he/she would be considered a little mad. And yet, that is exactly what has become possible because of the recently constructed Sion-Dadar flyover.

Flyovers create all sorts of problems in the areas underneath them, including the nuisance of parking lots. Similarly, the “under the flyover” area (UFA) of the Matunga segment of the Sion-Dadar flyover should also have become a giant parking area. But somehow, the UFA has been spared this fate and except for the presence of some towing vehicles and presumably some towed cars that are parked within the first 100 meters or so, there are no other vehicles within…and ideally, these should go as well.

And because this is now a 530 meters straight stretch of concrete (I have measured with my GPS) with two-three steps and a small slope in the middle, it has gradually become a “walking” area. Trust Matungaiites to grab the smallest opportunity that allows them some recreation for free…I first saw some “walkers” about two months ago during one of my early morning runs…and I too ran a short segment within the UFA without incident. When I returned a couple of weeks later in the evening, I found even more people, both adults and kids, walking, playing and cycling.

During light showers, the flyover above offers protection from the rains…you are outdoors and yet sheltered from getting wet and the UFA is now my designated alternative running area this season. It is also an interesting experience to walk/run through the middle of an arterial road with traffic on either side and the associated noise and smoke. But trust me…as Mumbaiites we know how to shut out noises of all kinds and despite all the traffic, it is possible to zone out in the UFA.

Two weeks ago, I found vagrants sleeping in the UFA and thought that soon the UFA would become another homeless haven, with people cooking and shitting, etc. However, and I thank whoever is responsible, the homeless have left for other unprotected pastures.

I am not sure how long this status quo will remain though. The UFA property seems too inviting not to attract the attention of builders and other opportunity grabbers wanting to start some “development” scheme or the other and to take it over. One way to protect it I guess would be to fence it and convert it into an official garden, if that is even possible.

But, at least for the time being…Vincent road, or at least a part of it…where people can walk through its middle for about half a kilometer…is back!

14 Comments

  • I was just thinking of this when I saw some couples walking UFA.It felt nice.I guess we don’t have to wait for someone else to act when the homeless make homes.Like residents of Bandra residents of Matunga can take the measures to make the UFA a walker’s park.Though I am not a resident of Matunga(I am from Chembur)Matunga is like a second home.Being a Podarite and Matunga market being the ultimate shopping destination for me I feel as much a part of Matunga as any resident.

  • Pravin Kumar wrote:

    I feel like congratulating you Matungaites for the new gift. Btw rather than waiting for someone else to start some unkind development how abt getting together and developing the space as the area desired, i.e. A walking/running/recreation space bang in the middle of an arterial road. Maybe you can name it Under Fly Over UFO for short;)

  • wow now here’s an idea one can use. I used to run an average of 10km per day till around end of last month, this month that has dropped to under 5km. It’s a lucky day when I can push myself to wade through the muck to reach palm beach road and then find an hour of rain free running. Since I run in minimalistic shoes wading through muck is exceptionally yucky. However now that you mention it, there is a flyover right outside my window and yes I’ve often run on the pavement underneath on my way back from a longer run. I haven’t measured the length specifically but runkeeper/GPS does make me think it is around 500-600 metres. On an exceptionally rainy day I think I’ll just loop around under the flyover :)) and get back to the 10k average

    Thanks doc this is a good idea.

  • Sriganesh wrote:

    Oh!
    Go take a look at the UFO spaces on the Western Express Highway till Borivali. UFO has been used for all sorts of purposes.

    I plan to complain to my area Corportaor, MLA and MP and make sure that you also get equal treatment. No Social injustice just because I live in Western suburbs.
    🙂

  • Jayesh Desai wrote:

    I too remember walking in the middle from sion circle to Dadar tt with friends in sixties. Thank you for pointing out, it will be fun to end the walk at Maheshwari Udhyan and then end the sessions with filter coffee at udipies around the circle.

  • Surendra wrote:

    Good one. It reminded me of my days in 60s when I used to go to my Bank at Sion Circle from Dadar TT by N or J3 bus after a cup of coffee at Farmer Bros at Dadar TT.

  • Prabha Vinay wrote:

    CONGRATS that a part of Vincent Road is back! Your suggestion of fencing the UFA and converting it into official garden is wonderful! Hope to see few such beautifications of the city 🙂

  • V.Subramanian wrote:

    Another interesting area that might come up in the suburbs is the Area under the Mono Rail. While the project might be fully operational in few years, how the narrow space below the Rails would be used is anybody’s guess. The “Vultures” are watching for any open space for commercial exploitation. It is only,the vigilance of the civil society along with activists that could save these open spaces.The menace of beggars and Hobos are
    relatively easier to tackle.
    V.Subramanian.

  • Neelakantan K wrote:

    I normally go for a walk in the evenings after office hours and I take this same route on the way to five garden. I also noticed a few vagrants and a couple of families having taken residence UFA. After a few days they did disappear- thanks to some good Samaritan.
    I was wondering if someone will sponsor a real walking track here.

  • raymond f wrote:

    Great idea !!!! anything for us poor mumbaiites to get some free space to exercise our legs – the only worry is won’t the continuous flow of traffic on the right, the left and above belch us out of us out breath?
    Whatever – it’s a splendid use of precious spare space…go for it mumbaikars..

  • Yes, I too went into that old memory lane called Vincent Road, which used to be called Second Marine Drive in the 60’s as only at these two places, people could walk freely and enjoy it too. It used to be a great place to meet and socialize for most Matunga residents. All efforts need to be applied to keep it that way and save from encroachments.

  • Good ‘ole Vincent Road – used to be known as second Marine Drive for the pleasure of walking and socializing among Matunga Residents during 60’s! we have to put-in all efforts to save it from encroachments, since Matunga is one of only few suburbs where there is no place for encroachments. We will never know who’s eyeballs are focused there!

  • Rohit Gosalia wrote:

    This article brought two strong memories in my mind.
    1. Brooklyn Bridge in New York is designed with walkway in the center. If one wants to feel NYC – this is the place to feel the character of NYC. In fact many who live in USA for many years (and have not frequented NYC) are not even aware of this City Characteristic 1.5 mile long one way walk. I wish our politicians had vision to make city more citizen friendly and could consult some Genuine (not L1 type) city planning consultant – who would have balanced Vehicular traffic and Pedestrian Traffic while planning and designing so many Flyovers.

    2. Second point – If we visit Hyderabad – you see all the flyovers are finished to perfection. All UFOs are beautifully planned and executed with Lovely green spaces – which is getting scarse in our city. For example Andheri WE Highway Flyover – which probably took longest to complete due to various disputes – UFO is in most horrible condition. It is pathetic to see this condition – I wonder – how do we progress to world class city status?

  • dr samir pai wrote:

    dear bhavin,
    as a regular reader of your column living 8000 miles away from beloved wadala- matunga( was there last in November 2009), you will be surprised if you spoke to more old timers about how they feel.this is even more significant if they live alone and will always tell their children not to return to matunga( in my case not to india either). i strongly feel you could contact a few of them and get their opinions. even in wadala on the road between SIWS and Andhra school( 20 years ago,damu from damu classes of matunga,organised cricket and volleyball tournaments which were popular with teams from as far as ghatkopar) today is a no go. i remember playing on the streets gully cricket with no tension.

    i will conclude by quoting jagjit singh ” yeh daulat bhi le lo,yeh shaurat bhi le lo,bhale chin lo muzse meri jaawani.magar muzhko lauta do bachpan ka sawan,woh kagaz ki kashti,woh baarish ka paani”.

    many regards

    dr samir manjunath pai
    cambridge
    UK

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