Keep walking!

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April 25th, 2012 Namrata Acharya

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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6 Responses to “Keep walking!”

  1. sourav Says:

    The vociferous demand for the rights of pedestrians can be judged cogent but at the same time with india still bragging over maintaining meticulously planned single lanes and tight inched roads, it makes more sense if people don’t take that’ idea ‘ad
    “walk while you talk” or I say ” talk while you walk” indeed an intellectual guess.Almost all indians have been knowing about the zebra crossing before actually knowing about zebra but when it comes to using it, the pedestrians prefer giving a blind hack.They don’t care if it’s ambulance or a fire van,they seem lost in their ambulatory joy. It demands for some hearty laugh when even in tier III cities like ranchi,people are rallying against the rights for pedestrian when the roads itself are struggling to be more than narrow arroyo.It’s high time pedestrians stop thinking the roads as their dowry earned assets and should follow up road rules and be cautious while crossing roads than expecting some ‘tonnes’ up lorry or whiffing ambulance to stop respectfully for them. The people should rather look out for helping the old citizens,children and disabled to cross roads than checking the playlist in their phones.A bit responsibility and love for road rules can make your walk more safe and may be fun as i would say enjoy while you “keep walking” like “JHONNY WALKER”.

  2. Piyush Says:

    The comments on the blog are as interesting and food for though for administrators / policy makers / all others concerned / pedestrians / drivers.

    As a busy individual myself and also afraid of picking up fights on streets, I am not sure who, when and how shall make the change possible. There are many such civic living oriented issues such as honking / loud music while driving / late night parties etc. against which the laws also exist but the enforcement is and shall remain an issue.

    Probably the schools should think of adding some of these issues in their curriculum and should devise ways to make the young citizens of India sensitive to these. Change may then be possible as the children are the seeds which, if fed with right civic education, would make sensitive citizens.

    Should the NGO also start working in this directions with the help of RWA etc. and make this much needed / source of urban stress, change possible. Change may be slow but let us all come forward and support these for our own good.

  3. ShekharSuman Says:

    India has a big population,limited resource and limited money.as we can compare to any developed country with it .people in India can do any thing for himself or personal development.it should not be like that as we do .we should respect feeling,emotion,freedom of others .education is most necessary for all and it should implement in right path though others may get benefits rather than any harm.we all are equal so we have equal rights to do any thing and enjoy our life.

  4. Aditya Says:

    It is the question of the mind set of the people. who here in India crosses at a Zebra Crossing? Which driver stops to let the pedestrians cross at a Zebra crossing where it is the pedestrians right of way. People jump over the dividers to cross the roads. The over-head or sub-way foot paths are rarely utilised for crossing the roads. Take the example of the flyover near the JLN stadium, there is a foot path beside the flyover (no foot path on the flyover) and steps provided for the pedestrians to cross the road.. but people still choose to walk on the road on the flyover rather than use the steps. How many people know that pedestrians are supposed to walk in the direction opposite to that of the traffic?

    What is required is education and stricter implementation of rules. Till then Walk Safe with eyes on the back of your head.

  5. Subhash Says:

    At one point of time, perhaps in early 70s, Delhi had one such traffic light in Darya Ganj, near Golcha cinema for pedestrians to press before crossing. However, it is defunct since long because of highly increased traffic of vehicles as well as the pedestrians.

  6. esskay Says:

    Well, I like your demands for pedestrian rights, but if we are talking in the context of India, let us first accept that pedestrians have little road sense themselves, unlike other countries. And, given the incessant influx of new people in cities and more people in villages, drumming in road sense seems to be a Herculean task too.

    Much as motorists curse other drivers, it is really a number of jay-walkers who lead to accidents and much heart-burn.

    Your case is, of course, the result of stupid motorists, who still can’t do anything but blow a horn in a narrow gully which they should know would have people on foot.

    But please don’t forget when demanding broad pedestrian rights and amenities, that without the elusive road sense, it will create more chaos than order.

    After all, it is much easier and more instantaneous to stop ourselves from taking that next step in traffic than expect a car which has already accelerated to brake and then brake in time for it to avoid us.

    So, on busy roads (and certainly not narrow gullies) pedestrians should learn to first stop darting around like deer. Until then, what rights? And why? They are anyway at an advantage, all they have to do is just sprint across, like you’ve said, even if they leave a car pile-up behind on the road they just crossed.

    Leave alone country-roads, pedestrians on city roads are guilty of jay-walking as well. So first, they, or rather, we, need to learn how to behave on roads with traffic, and if there is a lack of amenities, then cross as quickly as possible. Let’s see more of us not try and cross despite a red light, take our own sweet time to cross or walk with our headphones cranked high, and then we can don our righteous hats to demand fancy contraptions.

    In the meantime, here’s hoping motorists leave their bullying for more respect for others on the road and traffic rules.

    Till then, walk safe when you keep walking!

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