Saturday, August 30, 2008

At least two dozen pedestrians are killed or injured on Kochi’s roads every year


KOCHI: Walking might be good for health, but not along Kochi’s roads. Many roads in the city, including arterial ones do not have footpaths, forcing people to walk along uneven road shoulders. Insensitive motorists do not care for pedestrians and brush past them at high-speed. Pedestrians are not safe even at zebra lines, where motorists in all civilised countries slow down to give them preference. Out in Kochi, they intimidate pedestrians by trying to speed past before they manage to cross the road.
Walking along even roads with footpaths is quite a nightmare. Pedestrians have to endure spit (people insist on spitting on the footpath even if there is an open drain on the side), dirt and rotting garbage that adorn the city’s roads.
Then there are slabs which are missing or the ones that sharply protrude out from the footpath, which kill or maim at least two dozen people in Kochi each year. An example is the ill-maintained footpath along the Rajendra Maidan-Menaka stretch, where vendors occupy a good share of the footpath.
Despite police action in some stretches, cars and bikes continue to be parked on the footpath in front of commercial establishments. Fallen tree stumps and branches are left to decay on the footpath, forcing pedestrians to venture into the road.
As for senior citizens and handicapped people, climbing the footpaths is quite a tiresome proposition.
Pedestrians have to risk their life to cross busy intersections since the signal lights aimed at guiding pedestrians malfunction in most places.
Fed up with inaction on the part of the Corporation of Cochin and the PWD that have to maintain the footpaths and ensure that roads have zebra lines at least in junctions, a pedestrian audit was conducted in between the Judges Avenue Junction at Kaloor and the St Antony’s Church there a few days ago. The initiative to mobilise support for pedestrian rights came from the Centre for Public Policy Research.
“Motorists must remember that they too become pedestrians once they venture out of the vehicle,” said Jaismon Antony, an active member of the agency who is pursuing his degree course in sociology from Sacred Heart College, Thevara.
“Some respondents in the survey said that many pedestrians cross the road carelessly. We plan to carry out such campaigns in other parts of the city too, so that the Corporation takes note of the hassles pedestrians encounter. Unlike in most foreign countries, pedestrians here get a raw deal. Pedestrians turn more vulnerable in unlit roads,” he said, citing the death of a senior citizen near Janatha Junction on SA Road after he fell into an uncovered drain.
The Centre plans to bring out a manual that details the specifications for pedestrian-friendly footpaths. Their next initiative – a campaign to reduce the number of bus stops in cities.
Bus stops increase when people are reluctant to walk to the next bus stop along unsafe and ill-maintained footpaths.

Better footpaths would mean that more people take to walking up short distances – an inexpensive and non-polluting way to travel.
The Centre, formed by a group of visionary students can be contacted at 0484-6469177, or log on to reinventingcohin.blogspot.com.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Car Pooling

This Article appeared in Indian Express

KOCHI: How successful is the concept of car-pooling against the backdrop of the police move to collect token fee from single-passenger cars entering the city?
The concept suggests that if a number of people are coming from nearby places they can share a single vehicle. This will help avoiding unnecessary entry of vehicles into the city and fuel consumption.
While some people express their doubts about the feasibility of the concept, some others point out that already there are people going for car-pooling.
The city police have already sent a proposal to the state government seeking permission for collecting token fee from single-passenger cars entering the city. Once the proposal is implemented, people can park their vehicles near the South and North over-bridges and enter the city in public transports.
“People can park their vehicles near the over bridge and opt for circular service of public transports. The concept of car- pooling can be effectively implemented if people are ready for shared travelling. Advocates, who come to the High Court from one place can share a single vehicle. The court staff can also opt for pooling. There are lots of advocates using four-wheelers. Once they opt for car-pooling that itself will considerably reduce the traffic,’’ said City Police Commissioner Manoj Abraham.
The concept would be suited for advocates coming from nearby places, said advocate Anchal Vijayan. “ concept is indeed welcoming. I think, it’s already a practise in some of the major cities like New Delhi. I feel that the concept can be used not only by advocates but also by others working in similar offices,’’ he said. What’s more? There are already people opted for car-pooling.
“ four-five people are coming from Kakkanad side. Hence, we decided that we can use a single car. Alternate vehicles will be used each day. Someday there will be four and some days five. Even though we didn’t start the system keeping this concept in mind, we find it very useful,’’ said a woman working with the High Court.