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On Indian city roads and the fate-less pedestrians

Offbeat HotnHitNews


Monday June 09, 2014

India, Road, Pavement, Pedestrian, Air, Health  

"The number of Indian pedestrians on “sky-walk” is far more less than those who are walking on the road, meandering in between the vendors and their stalls. Through a minute observation of “Skywalks” in Bandra, Ghatkopar, Lower Parel, one can arrive at a conclusion that vendors make Indian city roads walk-able."


Kabir Arora (Khan)


Who owns Indian roads? Who decides who can use the roads? I never got the answer through any written theory or a law. It seems that there is some unwritten law book locked in the minds of the designers of cities. One must be wondering why am I in the whirlpool of these questions, I want to lose weight and have a little longer and more “healthier” life.

My pocket doesn’t allow me to pay for sweating in an air conditioned gym. So I prefer using the conventional way i.e. walking. But can I walk on roads. Yes! Surely but have to create my own way in mass of vehicles, slumps of waste and open drains. Walking on Indian roads is not very different from trekking in Himalayas but remember that there is no fresh air for the pedestrians which one can afford in mountains. Only fumes and dust is offered to those who walk.


Every day pre-lunch and post lunch I walk down to the destined eatery. There is a nice spacious road. I cannot access it; any car which considers lane to be a freeway can pass through any moment. And I don’t want to be martyred by a car; there are better causes to die for and better ways to kill oneself. Are there any walkways? Yes! There are. Why don’t I use them? I do use them but they are a dumping sight of many houses, construction material is scattered all around. At many places the pavements are either broken or encroached by the house owners, it is not available for “public” use. So I have to father a new pathway daily.

Some political masala to make it a little more intelligent post, according to different estimates it is concluded that more than 60% of citizens in Delhi use buses. And they walk down to the bus stop to board it. A glance of the data is enough to infer that broken pavements have a tendency of encouraging people to use auto-rickshaws or shared vehicle to reach the bus stop. There is also a probability that the state of pavements can discourage the public transport users to take bus, especially those who come from affluent section.

The walk-ability of the pavement is going to be another potential Bus Rapid Transit (Delhi) like battle-ground which need to be fought by the pedestrians to reclaim spaces and cities. Walkability is not dependent on the topography of pavement it also includes trees, pollution. If the surroundings are exploding with traffic – it is pedestrian who is “saving the environment” will suffer the most by inhaling carbon monoxide and suspended particulate matter, noise of horn banging as everyone want to win some invisible race. Poor guy instead of being rewarded is actually condemned in real life situation for taking such a worthy decision.

There is another dimension to the story of walk-ability. Many of our bourgeoisie citizens blame the street vendors for occupying the payments. Do vendors reduce the walk-ability; I have no data to support. But because of the presence of street vendors, many places seem to be a little more walk-able. As Indians we have a habit of shopping while going back home, grabbing snacks on the way to office which makes the presence of street vendors essential in our lives. In recent times to make the life of 11 number bus commuter (pedestrian) sky-walks have been constructed. The number of pedestrians on “sky-walk” is far more less than those who are walking on the road, meandering in between the vendors and their stalls. Through a minute observation of “Skywalks” in Bandra, Ghatkopar, Lower Parel, one can arrive at a conclusion that vendors make roads walk-able. I am sure there can be multiple reason of less usage of “skywalks” but there is no harm in making connection between the evident activities. Argument of vendors taking over the pathway is flattened or maybe I am a biased fool who is trying to be a little more humane towards vendors and not the heaps of classy men who want to demolish everything to make roads walk-able instead of reducing the mobile vehicular congestion.

So what do we do now? I have no clear answer but I will keep walking to lose weight and reclaim the space I am entitled to. Hope more people will join. Last but not the least clean, well maintained pavements have a potential to make our figures perfect.

[Author is a Graduate in Geography from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Now studying "Urban Development" in Indian Institute of Human Settlements and working with Indian Youth Climate Network because of his interest in issues of Agriculture, Urbanization, Human Rights, Energy etc., he has worked as a Gandhi Fellow in Kaivalya Education Foundation during 2010-2012.]


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