Will walkers unite?SHOUMOJIT BANERJEE
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Pedestrians are marginalised in planning, although India pursues
a‘people-centric’ urban transport policy
Callous urban planning and the motor car culture juggernaut have come
together to make life hell for the pedestrian in a city where pavements and
sidewalks account for over 95 per cent of footfalls.
Traffic authorities say an average 350 pedestrians have been killed in
Mumbai each year since 2008, while crossing roads or just walking.
In most cases, the victims (including cyclists) are from the poorer
classes, falling victim to indifferent motorists from the rich, upwardly
mobile and political classes, usually in the 15-29 age group, say officials.
“As car technology advances, a fundamental paradox is operating here as
motorists feel safe and think they have the right to ride roughshod over
the pedestrian. The pedestrian and the pavement dweller's angst is
aggravated when municipal authorities sacrifice a footpath to increase
space for cars of the well-heeled classes,” says journalist Vidyadhar Date,
author of *Traffic in the Era of Climate Change* , a passionate espousal of
the rights of the pedestrian.
“In the post-Nehruvian era and the Licence Raj, the villain in the public
consciousness was usually the truck driver. But now it is a rich kid or a
politico’s son who mows down pedestrians and cyclists,” he says.
This cruel inequality is further accentuated when the law blames an
accident on the ‘careless pedestrian.’
Maharashtra Transport Commissioner V.N. More attributes it to the paradigm
shift in lifestyle, notably the rapid advent of pub culture and inability
of affluent youth to cope with it.
“Basic speeding laws are in place, and people should responsibly adhere to
them. People with power and money usually crackdown on the average traffic
cop trying to perform his duty,” says Mr. More.
*Pedestrians are marginalised in planning, although India pursues
a‘people-centric’ urban transport policy*
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