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.

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