It is a relief that the Bombay High court on Nov 1, laid down the law for hawkers in Mumbai and the judges said that “…….we will have to balance the right of pedestrians to walk on footpaths and citizens to use roads for plying their vehicles”. Welcome indeed.
The main concern in the city, as far as road traffic and people’s safety is concerned is on how to discipline the vehicle drivers, to prevent jaywalking of pedestrians, what safety precautions to be adopted to prevent accidents and so on. Though the drivers are blamed for rush and negligent driving, by and large many factors contribute to the accidents which have become very common nowadays.
Yes….pedestrians themselves are the problem—as they also take “risky steps” on the roads and many a time attempt to cross over to the other side even when the signal is green for the vehicles. And of course less said about the condition of the Mumbai roads the better, which, of late have “contributed” to many fatal accidents. Every year we witness deaths due to serious accidents caused by such potholes. This is a serious matter as howsoever careful and disciplined a driver or a pedestrian is, these potholes become death traps.
But then, I see that the main crux of the problem today is lack of safe places for the people to walk on. I mean that today, the city has no open space like the footpaths, where people can safely walk on and also enable the motorists to have a “safer driving” too. Herein I have some suggestions:
Gone are the days or years when we used to have clean and wider footpaths whereon people used to walk and were safe from the speeding vehicles on the roads. I remember my school days when we’re advised by parents and elders, to walk only on the footpaths and not on the roads. Today I myself as a parent cannot advise my children to do so. Instead I am forced to tell them to walk on the available space on the roads carefully!
Today footpaths have literally vanished, as they have in fact become “food paths”. Throughout Mumbai and elsewhere too, one just cannot find even a yard of foot path for people to walk freely on. Footpaths are all occupied mainly by many unlicensed food stalls and hawkers, newspaper and books vendors and even govt authorised milk-products booths or telephone booths for the handicapped. The food stalls freely use the footpath space to store water, even cooking, carry out cleaning activities etc. Besides, footpaths are also considered as “home” by many who carry out all the chores on the footpath-spaces around them. They are also used to park vehicles like cycles, hawkers’ vehicles, bikes etc. And, in many places, alongside the footpath one can see as many “vehicle repair garages”.
(This is the first part of the article and the remaining portion will continue tomorrow)
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)