By Ankit Varma:
We have been so absorbed in building faster cars and smarter transport systems that we have undermined the most primitive form of transport, walking. A pedestrian can be defined as non-motorized form of movement mainly traveling on foot. In an ideal scenario our roads should offer safe and unhindered movement to the physically challenged, visually impaired, the old and the children but the irony is that traveling on foot is becoming increasingly arduous and unsafe, even for the perfectly abled.
India already has the dubious distinction of having the highest number of deaths in road accidents in the world. The latest ‘Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India-2010’ report of the National Crime Records Bureau says as many as 12412 pedestrians lost their lives on Indian roads in the year 2010. The capital city of New Delhi has been termed as the most unsafe for pedestrians. In 2010, 30% of all road accident fatalities were pedestrians, nearly four times the national average of 8.7%. Delhi is much smaller than Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra. But in terms of accidental deaths on the roads, Delhi ranks close to them. Alarmingly, Delhi accounts for 29% of all pedestrian deaths recorded in 35 mega-cities with population of more than 1 million.
For instance, the NH-1’s 22 kilometre stretch in the capital has turned into a death trap for pedestrians. A life is lost every three days on this stretch of NH-1 in the capital. While the 8 lane carriage way encourages high-speeds, hardly anything has been done to facilitate the movement of pedestrians. The stretch is dotted with villages but does not have a single over-bridge to facilitate the movement of pedestrians. This demonstrates the apathy of the authorities towards public concern.
The primary reason behind this unsettling rise in pedestrian death is the remarkable increase in number of vehicles and diminishing space for pedestrians. Pedestrian facilities in India leave much to be desired. In developed countries, pedestrians are given the highest priority. This is missing in India- absent safety infrastructure coupled with lack of knowledge results in unsafe roads. The encroachment of side-walks and rash driving only add to the problem. Pedestrians in the country do not have the respect of the motorists or the government. This makes care-free walking on Indian roads a distant dream.