Walking on Sunshine: Mumbai Clears Sidewalks by Making Pedestrians Airborne

A twenty-foot-high, two-mile-long elevated walkway is under construction in Mumbai, promising safer streets but angry shop-owners.

Skyway Mumbai


Mumbai is an urban planner’s nightmare. The city of 18 million is growing constantly as immigrants flood in, and it’s trying to expand, but hemmed in by the Arabian sea on three sides (there are proposals to build housing complexes on saltplains and mangrove marshes on the fourth). Mumbai has six times as many people as Chicago, but packs them into a peninsula almost exactly the same size, about 230 square miles. Predictably, things are getting tight.

The streets are near impossible to walk in–and you can forget about driving–so city planners have decided to forget the sidewalks entirely and build a whole new pedestrian infrastructure 20 feet above the chaos.

They’ve finished one, and have forty-nine to go. In total, the network will stretch two miles around the city, mainly connecting train stations. It’ll cost $300 million, but the city hopes to recoup that by selling ad space on the bridges. Of course, store owners are angry because the catwalks are taking away potential customers, and some folks are bemoaning the blocked views. Skyways are popular in the midwest and Canada, where they’re much appreciated when the weather gets nasty–the longest in the world are the 10-mile-long +15 in Calgary and the 8-mile Minneapolis Skyway. But even so, they face similar criticism.

Cincinnati, Minneapolis, and Calgary aren’t buckling under an over-taxed ground-level infrastructure, though, so the sheer need for this solution in Mumbai might keep the protestors at bay. If, that is, it ever gets built.

Even for a solution so (relatively) simple–put up some support columns, hoist up a pre-made catwalk–Mumbai’s unregulated infrastructural chaos makes it almost impossible:

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.

Already, six planned skywalks have been blocked by complications on the ground.