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declare january 11 as national pedestrians’ day: citizens demand

Photo of Kumar Manish
October 12, 2021
Walking on Indian Streets

A national coalition of NGOs has launched a nationwide campaign in India to demand that the Government of India should declare January 11 as National Pedestrians’ Day. This includes “Citizens for A Better Public Transport”, a Hyderabad-based network of individuals and organisations.

Photo by Plato Terentev from Pexels

The Need for Pedestrians’ Day

The campaign highlights the need for safe, convenient, and pleasant walking infrastructure in the country and to develop a culture where pedestrians are respected. 

National Campaign coordinator Suraj Jaipurkar said, “We have launched this campaign to highlight the alarming rise in pedestrian fatalities. Streets and walking neighbourhoods should be strengthened and made safe and inclusive in such a way that it accommodates all types of road users – from children to senior citizens to differently-abled people”.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi of Citizens for A Better Public Transport in this letter suggested the development of a Telangana Pedestrian First policy (through consultations), the development of guidelines to integrate this policy in urban master plans and road network development.

In a letter written to Arvind Kumar, Special Chief Secretary, Government of Telangana, on 9th October 2021, Citizens for a Better Public Transport, urged a declaration of a Pedestrian Week in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation(GHMC) area, and also a celebration of a Pedestrian Day in Telangana cities. This letter, further, requested GHMC to declare selected roads as completely pedestrian, preventing vehicles from plying, for a declared period of time, just like Tank Bund.

Incidentally, Pune has become the first city in the country to declare a city level pedestrian day. The Pune Municipal Corporation recently announced that it will observe Pedestrians’ day on December 11.

Data Speaks on Pedestrians Issues

As per the 2011 Census, one-third of all work trips are by foot with data showing that women tend to walk more than men. According to the National Statistical Organisation (NSO), 60% of children walk to school.

Despite this, walking infrastructure is inadequate and even non-existent in most of the cities, which have seen steady growth in pedestrian fatalities.

17% of the total road crash fatalities are pedestrians, with 25,858 killed in 2019. Data shows that this number has increased by 85% in five years.

Report “Road Accident Data in India” published by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.

Dr C. Ramachandraiah of Citizens for A Better Public Transport said, “Walkability needs a huge mindset change among the Government officers and Consultants who are creating project reports”.

The Story of Pedestrians Plight in Hyderabad

The situation of pedestrians in Hyderabad and other cities of Telangana is no different from the national conditions. Pedestrians deaths are increasing in Hyderabad, due to various accidents, poor infrastructure and lack of safe footpaths and poor street design.

https://images.citizenmatters.in/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2020/09/13050918/dangerous-roads.png

As per a report by The Footpath Initiative, 602 pedestrians lost their lives on the roads of Hyderabad between 2017 and 2019. More than half of them (52.4%) were hit by vehicles while crossing the road.

A few others were victims of road crashes as they went about their morning walk, or while waiting for a bus or other modes of transport by the side of the road.

The streets in India are also becoming dangerous for children. More than ten children, all under 10 years of age, got hit by vehicles while playing by the roadside during this period.  The most shocking is that at least ne pedestrian life in Hyderabad was lost every other day in the year 2019.

A large number of open manholes & damaged slabs on roadside drains have become death traps for pedestrians in Hyderabad. GHMC has been building toilets on footpaths. Electricity poles and transformers on footpaths also endanger pedestrians. Railings on footpaths and medians constrain pedestrians. People will not resort to jumping medians if we provide adequate crossings where they need them.

Road crossing has become a dangerous pursuit for all and with Hyderabad Metro Rail raising an almost two -feet wall in the road median, pedestrians are finding it difficult to cross the roads.

In general, pavements are either narrow, damaged or occupied, forcing pedestrians to walk on the roads, making them vulnerable to accidents. Road widening has never helped in expanding pavement widths. Parallel and hazardous parking is further forcing pedestrians to walk on the road.

Pedestrian-friendly places don’t need elaborate infrastructure. The real problem is not the infrastructure or lack thereof, but a built environment that’s inhospitable to walking and cycling. 

In 2018, it was reported that the Government of Telangana has given permission for the construction of 52-foot overbridges (FOB) and eight skywalks in the Greater Hyderabad limits. Hyderabad Metro Rail (HMR), in 2014, promised that as many as 200 skywalks (elevated walk space) below the metro rail viaduct under the project. Almost all of these plans are on paper, not yet realised.

A few Foot-over-Bridges constructed here and there remain unutilised or under-utilised. Government should undertake a serious study on why these FOBs are not being used. Pedestrian infrastructure should be planned for them. It cannot be a euphemism to help car traffic.

Charter of Demand from Hyderbad Citizens

As a part of the campaign, SUM Net partners will meet decision-makers in order to solicit their support for the declaration of a National Pedestrians’ Day and to push for policies that will make walking attractive and safe. We are also going to organise activities like rallies, walkathons, seminars, etc. to highlight the importance of walkability. We have called upon other organisations to join the campaign.

A draft resolution for Pedestrians’ Day will also be submitted to the Government.

  • Declaration of a Telangana Pedestrian Day
  • Telangana government should write a letter to Union Government urging declaration of 11th January, every year, as National Pedestrian Day.
  • Hyderabad, and other major cities in Telangana, have to focus their attention on pedestrians.
SUMNet agenda on walking
  • Retrofitting existing roads with pedestrian-friendly pavements should be part of this activity, of celebrating walking, walkers and pedestrians.
  • Eventually, selected road stretches can be declared for a certain period of the day, in a week, as vehicle free. Similar approach can be adopted in other cities of Telangana.
  • Pedestrianisation of streets should be part of GHMC and MAUD plans.

Sustainable Urban Mobility Network (SUM Net) is a coalition of individuals, voluntary organizations, and civil society networks and movements promoting sustainable urban transport solutions across India. You can support the campaign for the National Pedestrian Day by signing up here: https://bit.ly/SUMNtwitNPD

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