Visually-impaired Dhananjay Bhole prefers to walk on the road as he finds manoeuvring his way through the many obstructions on city pavements rather hazardous. Fast-moving vehicles do not scare him as much as unexpected elevations and descents, broken tiles, dug pits, tress or their branches hanging low.
"At least the road is even and I can walk with the help of my white stick. While cars are parked haphazardly (on the road) and even if I have assistance, I end-up running into them many times, but it's better than falling down on the pavements and hurting myself," says Bhole, a scientist who works as the coordinator of an accessibility research group in University of Pune.
Bhole's experience is representative of many pedestrians who do not use footpaths as they find them too high to climb, too narrow to walk, broken, discontinuous, uneven, slippery, dirty and stinky, poorly lit and with obstacles like trees, garbage bins and meter-boxes, apart from many encroachments such as shops brazenly extending their stores up to the road.
After having worked on improving pedestrian facilities in several parts of the city, architect and urban designer Prasanna Desai says pedestrians in the city have been marginalized. "With far too many elements on the roads, pedestrians have been completely pushed to the corner and are denied the respect they deserve as the first owners of the road. If the pedestrian is the king of the road, then footpaths too need to be king-size," he says.
Poor design and upkeep of footpaths also has pedestrians prefer the road. Traffic engineer Pratapsingh Bhonsle, says pedestrians will use footpaths if they are provided to them in a usable form. "Nobody wants to climb up a footpath to walk on it for a few centimetres, then climb down because there is a tree in the middle of it, then climb up again, only to run into stuff displayed by shops on more than half the space meant for walking. At some places they are stinky, or just simply constructed poorly. It is more dangerous for senior citizens and people with physical disabilities, who would then rather just walk on the road," he says.
Prashant Inamdar, convener of social body Pedestrians First, says, "Some footpaths are well constructed but deteriorate and become unusable over a period of time due to lack of proper upkeep and maintenance."
Activists note there are guidelines in place but poor compliance. Jayant Joshi, member of Save Pune Traffic Movement, says footpaths should be provided on all road stretches in accordance with guidelines for such constructions.
Why pedestrians don't use footpaths
- Too high to climb
- Too narrow
- Obstacles like trees, garbage bins and meter-boxes
- Encroachments by commercial establishments
- Dirty and stinky
- Slippery and poor quality tiles
- Poorly lit
Source: Times of India