Monday, March 25, 2013

On my feet

I’ve been trying to walk at least a couple of times a week. I don’t walk myself breathless but I do try to walk in lieu of a motorized commute, so I don’t waste time or non-renewable fossil fuels.

Now that I walk, I remember again how hard the city is for pedestrians. Most pavements are so narrow, two adults cannot walk abreast. If someone walks from the opposite direction, one of you must step off the pavement. There is very little shade or green cover. Besides, the pavement is broken in many places. At times, it nosedives into a ditch for no good reason. And of course, you get the worst of the pollution, which is ironic and annoying, given that you’re doing your bit for a cleaner environment.

Even if you ignore the noise and fumes, walk past an empty stretch of land and you must deal with garbage. Piles and piles of it! Every time I walk past such a dump, I wonder what might happen if such a huge mound of rubbish was piled in the centre of the road – in the paths of the cars and trucks. Would it not be cleared for months? Could it be that the municipality (or whatever private party owns the empty stretch of land) doesn’t know about so much accumulated garbage? Has nobody complained?

But the only people who are affected by the filth are either people walking past or the homeless who actually sleep on the pavement. And who would act upon the complaints of the homeless?

All these problems sully my pleasure in the walks. Still, I walk. And I find myself taking road risks because sometimes there isn’t any zebra crossing or a split in the road divider for over a kilometer. The other night, I was walking with a friend. At a busy crossing, two cops waved the traffic this way and that. 

We waited patiently, hoping they’d notice. The cops did not hold the traffic up for pedestrians. Finally, I gestured angrily at one of the cops. He indicated a lapse (which lasted about three seconds) in the rush of oncoming cars, and gestured that we could run across. We did so but I couldn’t help snapping at the cop.

Recently, we learnt that in Mumbai, the majority of people injured in road accidents – nearly 57% – are pedestrians. Older studies showed that in most Indian cities, about one-third accident deaths are those of pedestrians. Here’s another statistic: between 1981 and 2001, the human population of six metropolises went up 1.9 times, but the motor population went up 7.7 times! Another decade later, studies indicate that the motor population increase is 9 times that of people population increase.

Even so, pedestrians and cyclists account for at least 30% of all trips on city streets. But, according to a 2008 study that surveyed 30 Indian cities, only 30% of these streets have footpaths. What these statistics add up to is the fact that millions of Indians face injury or death, walking on roads crammed with cars and bikes. They do this not because they are stupid or suicidal but because they don’t have an alternative. 

Whatever little safety could be expected by walking along the edges of streets is also taken away by double parked cars.

And so, I’m very pleased to hear that someone has announced an ‘Aam Nagrik Rashtriya Footpath Yojna’. It isn’t a ‘yojna’ (scheme) really, in the sense that it has no funds. But it has a mission – get a share of the road and reject a transport policy that favours cars over pedestrians and cyclists. Naturally, I’m walking on their side.

Published here.


Deepa said...

Dear Annie,

I am a regular follower of your blog since 2006 and I have always admired your writings, in which I have always found a sense of genuine activism.

I am reaching out to you, requesting you to write about, and thereby extend your support to the thousands of, no, millions of students protesting all over Tamilnadu, to take the due action against Srilanka.

As you would be well aware, SL has committed a conspired genocide against Tamils and is still trying its best to wipe remaining hapless souls off the face of earth by denying even the basic human necessities.

It's a shame that this vital happening has almost been blacked out by the media outside anywhere of Tamilnadu, except for NDTV.,or.r_cp.r_qf.&bvm=bv.44158598,d.bmk&fp=85ae091144d8c54c&biw=1366&bih=655

I trust you'll make a difference.

Thank you very much.

Warm regards,

(P.S> SOrry for using the comment section of your blog, but I dont have your email ID)

Deepa said...

You can reach me at:

jo said...

Time we reclaimed our walking spaces and started providing feasible alternatives to citizens

Annie Zaidi said...

That is true, jo. high time

Khoty Mathur said...

Am glad pedestrians have started this movement to repossess their footpaths. Don't know how useful this might be but Greenpeace, India give anyone who wants to start a campaign a free platform. Here's their link

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