Sunday, 24 August 2008

It is a peril being a pedestrian in Bangalore

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Recently a villager was killed by a speeding vehicle which was en-route to Bangalore International Airport (BIA). Admittedly the villager may have jay-walked across the road and got hit. If you were a pedestrian in Bangalore, you would admit that jay-walking on Bangalore roads is the only option left for pedestrians. This may be true of other cities also.
I have been on the BIA road quite a few times and don’t find very many places for the pedestrian to cross across the road. Today it can be argued that most of it is an empty landscape and hardly a few people cross the road but what happens a few months down the line, when the entire road will be buzzing with mega construction activity. First of all, I am not comfortable with the logic that traffic on this road should move unhindered. Even accepting that logic, why was not this stretch of road planned with more pedestrian underpasses, skywalks, etc? If we decide to go in for underpasses tomorrow, are we going to dig up the well laid roads? What a mockery of commonsense would that be but when has commonsense been the forte of city planners in Bangalore? Here I would like to point about Old Madras Road on Bangalore, which hardly has any safe avenue for pedestrians to cross the road. A zebra crossing is present only at four or five places starting from RMZ Infinity (near Ulsoor Lake) leading upto KR Puram Railway Station and even those are not respected by speeding motorists. This stretch of road is almost 10 kms.

It is more difficult to be a pedestrian in Bangalore than a vehicle owner. A pedestrian’s life and limbs are always in peril in Bangalore, thanks to the insensitive motorists combined with the apathy of the law enforcing agencies. Somehow it is assumed that pedestrian is not a part of traffic when the truth is one can escape from being a vehicle owner but not being a pedestrian. Two wheelers plying on footpath and the traffic cops remaining a silent spectator is not uncommon in Bangalore. In most traffic signals in Bangalore, vehicles wait for the green signal on the zebra crossing and the traffic cops hardly mind it leave alone fining such mindless motorists. It is normal for motorists to ply even when the traffic signal is for the pedestrian to cross and the traffic cops don’t even blink an eyelid.
Footpath as defined in the dictionary is “a narrow path for walkers only or a raised space alongside a road, for pedestrians”. In Bangalore it is a space exclusively reserved for the shopkeepers, garage owners, gas agencies to transact their business. Many of the corporation authorities don’t even know it is an offence and those who know it is one make a quick buck from the shameless small businessman. The traffic police who promptly book any vehicle for being parked in a no-parking zone do not mind when the footpath is fully obstructed. The pedestrians are left with no option but to walk on the road. Once in a while, one of them will get by a vehicle and people will burn a few vehicles but that does inspire neither the corporation nor the traffic police from cracking hard on the offenders. After all allowing such transgressions is so beneficial for both the parties.
From past few months, I have been trying to clear the encroachments on footpath in the locality where I stay. I have sent half a dozen complaints to various authorities in Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (Bangalore City Corporation) but no action has been taken. Last Friday on August 22, 2008, I called up the Joint Commissioner (East) office to check up status of the complaint. His P.A. attended the complaint and after first denying my complaint has been received, he told that the same has been forwarded to the concerned engineer. The answer which he gave next defined the peril of being a pedestrian in Bangalore “Sir, if we try to clear the encroachments on the footpath, Shopkeepers will shout at us”. Need I say more?

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