Where the sidewalk ends

unsafeLife is difficult for pedestrians in Indian cities. It is estimated that around 1.5 lakh people die on the streets of Indian cities every year, and over a crore get hospitalized. In the run for making our roads comparable to that of the developed parts of the world, we have focused too much on the car and bike wallas, and done too little for the pedestrians.

Roads are planned in India for heavy traffic to move on. Hence, there are more and more flyovers and road-widening projects. In some areas there are bypass roads and wide expressways meant for the enormous and rapidly growing truck traffic. Within cities, roads are meant primarily for cars, bikes and buses, of which there are never enough. The one thing, city roads all over the country have in common, is the absence of broad and safe pavements for people to walk on. Where they do exist, they are generally taken over by hawkers, or again by cars, as parking space. As a result, people are forced to walk on the roads, putting their lives at stake.

The key lies in seeing a road not just as a space for cars but as a space that provides equal facilities to pedestrians as well. Pavements must be seen as an inseparable part of any road that is being built, improved or rebuilt. Not just building pavements but making sure that encroachers are removed and given their own space – thereby building parking areas and space for hawkers to make a living. Facilities must be improved for people crossing roads. It is unfortunate and ironic for people to die on streets, just because they were out, walking. The ritual killing and maiming of these people in the name of development must end. Sooner the better.

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