Keep walking? You bet | Cover Story | Times Crest
Popular on Times Crest
  • In This Section
  • Entire Website
  • Dying to get in
    July 13, 2013
    At its AGM held on June 29, 2008 it was resolved to put a 5-year freeze on membership applications at Bangalore's most coveted club, the…
  • Club hits
    July 13, 2013
    Despite their restrictive membership rules, colonial trappings and archaic dress (and gadget) codes, India's private clubs haven't lost…
  • Finer tastes
    July 13, 2013
    It is the culinary tradition and its grand interiors that Bengal Club is justifiably proud of.
More in this Section
Leaving tiger watching to raise rice Ecologist Debal Deb, who did his post-doctoral research from IISc in…
The crorepati writer He's the man who gives Big B his lines. RD Tailang, the writer of KBC.
Chennai-Toronto express Review Raja is a Canadian enthusiast whose quirky video reviews of Tamil…
Don't parrot, perform Maestro Buddhadev Dasgupta will hold a masterclass on ragas.
A man's man Shivananda Khan spent his life speaking up for men who have sex with men.
Bhowmick and the first family of Indian football At first glance, it would be the craziest set-up in professional football.
From Times Blogs
The end of Detroit
Jobs in Detroit's car factories are moving to India.
Chidanand Rajghatta
How I love the word ‘dobaara’...
Can ‘bindaas’ or ‘jhakaas’ survive transliteration?
Shobhaa De
Anand marte nahin...
India's first superstar died almost a lonely life.
Robin Roy
on the back foot

Keep walking? You bet


A nation that may have arisen in one famously long walk to Dandi 80 years ago appears to have no place for those who walk in its leading cities now. Pedestrians, it seems, are the new untouchables for Indian city administrators.

And they may even be sliding to forgotten status in most new plans to bolster urban transport infrastructure, say stunned transport experts. Yet, pedestrians account for over half of all commuters in every major Indian city, which makes for a delicious irony only karmic-minded Indians could shrug off.

Rohit Baluja, who heads IRTE, a Delhi-based traffic safety organisation, points out that in an accident-prone nation (India leads the world in annual traffic fatalities) it is pedestrians and cyclists who bear the brunt of most mishaps. Over 78 per cent of annual road accident fatalities in Mumbai, for instance, are pedestrians. Moreover, such estimates don't include serious life-impairing injuries that many more sustain everyday on our roads.

Research also shows that about half of 'walking trips' in cities cover less than 2 km, which means pedestrians often face grave dangers when just trying to go about daily chores or commuting to and from public transport options. Several major road crossings in India witness pedestrian traffic rates of over 10, 000 an hour on weekdays.

Madhav Badami, of the School of Urban Planning at Canada's McGill University, feels our pedestrian environment is "so severely vitiated that walking, the most natural of human activities, has become a hazardous activity". He further charges governments of willful disregard. "Nonmotorised modes of transport (walking, cycling) are not only ignored but actively discriminated against in Indian urban transport policy, " he says.

It is a charge Baluja echoes, as do transport planning insiders. Scant attention is paid to building footpaths, subways, over-bridges and other 'grade-separated carriageways' for pedestrians, they say. Delhi's AIIMS intersection, for instance, a clover-leaf flyover junction, is a veritable death trap for people looking to walk to nearby markets merely 500 metres away. The prestigious multi-crore project appears not to have even considered pedestrian needs right outside India's largest government hospital, which attracts thousands.

Many such instances of callous neglect in transport design litter every Indian city. One expert laments that only when lives are lost on new high-speed 'expressways' do engineers look to make crossings and other grade-separated facilities for pedestrians and cyclists. And existing arrangements are also being compromised, according to N Ranganathan, a veteran urban planner and transport researcher. He lists how road engineers now routinely gobble up footpath space when widening roads with little by way of compensation. Ranganathan also points to how footpaths are often misused (parking, squatting) and even abused (encroachments, garbage). Roundabouts, he says, are even worse for pedestrians, as motorists rarely honour zebra crossings. "Behavioural correction and enforcement is necessary in every aspect of road transport if we are to improve safety, " he says. This would apply to pedestrians, too, as many may still be found walking on the few roads that sport wide, clean pavements earmarked for walking.

The laws may also reflect our collective disre gard of our own fundamental right to walk in our cities. Baluja argues that in a country where there's a Motor Vehicles Act to regulate that form of transport, there's no Road Traffic Act - which means no responsibility is defined in law for pedestrians. "There are no VIPs among pedestrians in India for their rights to matter, " he states caustically.

Little wonder then that Badami is emphatic that "pedestrians have been rendered third class citizens in India, a nation of pedestrians".

Reader's opinion (3)

Anupam ShettyMar 19th, 2011 at 09:30 AM

One of the reasons why they prefer to walk on roads when footpaths are available is that either they are too narrow or too dirty to walk on, not to mention the inconvenience of uneven surface.

Amish DresswallaFeb 4th, 2011 at 10:09 AM

not exactly i have seen instances everyday that peaople in India like to walk on the roads even when the footpath [whatever the size] is empty still you will see people walking on the roads and not on the footpath we Indians have to improve first and then blame the authorities

Vishnu DasFeb 1st, 2011 at 14:43 PM

India, a nation of pedestrians. But really, a pedestrian nation.

Other Times Group news sites
The Times of India | The Economic Times
इकनॉमिक टाइम्स | ઈકોનોમિક ટાઈમ્સ
Mumbai Mirror | Times Now
Indiatimes | नवभारत टाइम्स
महाराष्ट्र टाइम्स
Living and entertainment
Timescity | iDiva | Bollywood | Zoom
| Technoholik |


itimes | Dating & Chat | Email
Hot on the Web
Book print ads | Online shopping | Business solutions | Book domains | Web hosting
Business email | Free SMS | Free email | Website design | CRM | Tenders | Remit
Cheap air tickets | Matrimonial | Ringtones | Astrology | Jobs | Property | Buy car
Online Deals
About us | Advertise with us | Terms of Use and Grievance Redressal Policy | Privacy policy | Feedback
Copyright© 2010 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service