Keep walking!

April 25th, 2012

The other day, while I was walking up to my office, I could sense there a queue of two or three cars behind me, blaring their way to glory. Obviously, I was the culprit. With my earphone plugged, I could hardly hear the impatient drivers trying their best to get a singular and straightforward message through to me: Get out of the way!

Okay, okay, so I was at fault. After all, listening to music while walking is not a very good idea, especially on Indian roads. Yet, the other day, when these cars were honking their minds out, I had very little option, with or without my headphones in use. There was hardly any space for me to move, as I was on a rather narrow lane. So what did the car drivers expect me to do? Vanish or melt in the April heat?

To give way to a moving vehicle on a road is such a standard norm, that we hardly bother to ask ourselves whether we have certain rights as citizens of a democratic society, or as pedestrians in cities with well-defined traffic laws. I wonder whether there is any book that dwells on the rights and duties of pedestrian living in civil societies.

In fact, there does exist an International Federation of Pedestrians, which seeks to promote and defend the pedestrian’s right to full access and mobility. The organisation, which represents the interests of the pedestrians, particularly the elderly and children, has an Indian arm as well. But sadly, its website hardly impressive and is almost as sorry as the plight of pedestrians on our country.

It is not that there had been no efforts to identify the rights of pedestrians in India. Around 2006 there were some efforts to by the Delhi government to ensure their safe transit passage by introducing push-button on crossings. In Pune too there had been some talk about giving some decent walkways to them.

However, I do not know if Indian cities actually have push-button in place. It will probably a pipedream or luxury for the next ten years at least. As a matter of fact, traffic signals on crossings in most Indian cities are not even equipped with timers. So, if you happen to be in the middle of the road and the signal turns red, there is a very slim chance that the racing vehicles will stop for you, as you sprint your way out of the traffic.

We could probably have more peaceful cities if people honked less and showed a little more respect for pedestrians. That doesn’t seem to be happening, so till then, just keep on walking!

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