Bipedalism (standing upright on two feet) is considered the crucial marker of human evolution. Walking, whether on a pilgrimage or as a mode of protest (think Dandi or Selma), is invested with significance, with an aura, a purpose. The effort, the impetus behind walking, the motivation that propels these walks are recognised as something special.
National Pedestrian Day
Reclaiming footpaths has been an ongoing civic issue with no clear resolution. For many Indians (like Shanthi, a domestic worker) walking, with a combination of public transport, remains the preferred mode of getting to work. How safe are they walking to work? While we have excellent initiatives such as the T. Nagar Pedestrian plaza by Greater Chennai Corporation that helped to secure pedestrian rights, we not only need more such spaces but also an attitude shift amongst motorists and other road users. In addition, there is also a need for consistent enforcement. #PedestrianRightOfWay
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The second National Pedestrian Conference organized by SUM Net India in Chennai brought together pedestrian voices, in an effort to create and implement walker-friendly roads and spaces. The event was held on the 11th and 12th of March, 2022 with a keynote address by Ms. Santha Sheela Nair, IAS (retd.).
A discussion on the existing urban policy framework, Chennai's second master plan, and the proposed third master plan with Prof. A. Srivathsan and Ms. Aswathy Dilip on March 7th, 2022.
How safe are pedestrians on our roads?
India is a nation of walkers. According to the 2011 census, one third of all work trips are by foot. Women walk to work more than men. And 60% of school journeys are by walk (NSO). Indian roads are unsafe for walkers. Almost 26,000 pedestrians, an 85% increase in the last 5 years, have died on Indian roads. Chennai’s OMR stretch alone sees as many as 34 pedestrian deaths a year. 90% of these deaths were from pedestrians trying to cross the road (Greater Chennai Traffic Police, 2019).
We urgently need better policies, better street design and better enforcement to keep India’s walkers safe.
In the global context, nations are striving to protect pedestrians and treat their needs with the highest priority. In India, cities have mostly been planned to accommodate the needs of vehicular traffic and have often ignored the needs of pedestrians. This has only resulted in causing a steady increase in pedestrian fatalities over the years. The Road Accident Report by the Union Transport Ministry states that the number of pedestrians killed on the road from 2014 to 2018 has increased by 84 per cent.