I live in Bangalore. I’d happily leave my car at home and use public transport. The bus service is excellent. There are plenty of air-conditioned buses plying all around the city. Economically priced, comfortable to travel, these buses stop wherever you hail them. The city also celebrates a bus day on 4th of every month to encourage more people to leave their personal vehicles home.
Yet I don’t, clinging onto my car.
Because, there are just no footpaths.
And whatever little is there, is certainly not in a shape that someone can walk on.
No wonder, the little distance from my building to the nearest bus stop seems so painful to cover. The footpath is broken, muddy and narrow. Patches of the path showcase human and animal excreta. Urinal smell is omniscient.
If one happens to stumble upon a footpath that’s clean and well laid, you are sure to find vehicles parked on them. If that’s not the case, hawkers would have already claimed these as their right to do business!
Over to Mumbai.
Last week I spent four days in Mumbai. As most of my meetings were scheduled downtown, I decided to lodge in a hotel close to Churchgate, barely 100 meters from Marine Drive.
It’s not the sea view I cared much for. It was the beautiful, 100 feet wide footpath (as wide as a four-lane road) alongside Marine Drive that brought me joy. The path was in perfect shape, not broken anywhere. Strangely, it was clean.
For three days I woke up early to walk along side Marine Drive. The sight there was worth beholding: no less than a thousand people! walking, jogging or simply enjoying the sea. Many of them had even brought their dogs along!
In fact, almost the entire downtown area around Chuchgate has wide footpaths. What a joy to walk, despite hot and humid weather of Mumbai!
Contrast this with Bangalore.
Beautiful weather all year round. Cool and breezy. Most roads lined with old leafy trees. But, no footpaths to walk. What little exists, is being demolished to allow the roads to be widened, mostly by a couple of feet. Many trees are being chopped. More than 2,500 have been sacrificed to widen roads in the last five years alone. Worse, these widened roads have no footpaths beside them!
I’ve seen Delhi go the same way. It has wonderful infrastructure. But if you observe closely, you’ll discover it’s only for the cars. If you aren’t driving a car in Delhi, you don’t exist! You are an absolute non-entity. You have no business of using the road!
Take Gurgaon. India’s latest and most modern city. Gurgaon has built from scrtach over the last 25 years. But there are no footpaths. Absolutely none!
I won’t be surprised to learn that car manufacturers pay the governments to construct wide roads. More cars, more revenue, and more money for the politicians as well – another virtuous circle.
Can we come together and fight for our right to reclaim footpath – our three-four feet wide little haven on road? How can we do it? I have no idea except to go to the court. Do you have any ideas or suggestions?
My colleague Rita Dutta has posted a comment on her own blog. It’s very interesting, and extremely well narrated.
Since I live in the very heart of Delhi, we already had well laid foot paths, outside the gates of our colony on either side of the road. This was diligently earmarked as one side for Vegetable vendors and the other side an open air urinal. Earlier, the male species had to stand or stoop under a tree before taking a leak but to make it more convenient; our Residential Welfare Association erected a wall. What more could the Male population of Delhi ask for.
The Vegetable vendors on one side that I refer, did not self claim it. It is the NDMC (New Delhi Municipal Committee) which allotted them space, 2 meter by 2 meter @ Rs.60/- a day for around 50-60 vendors from 5 PM to 10 PM. Of course, they were well aware that they have to follow the Indian Standard Time and therefore the adopted timing was 3 PM to 12 PM adding an hour each for starting time and closing time, effectively making it 2PM to 1 PM. Despite this you will find that from midnight to early mornings, the foot path is clean and ready to use, provided you can sleep walk.
Now, with the coming of the CWG, there was a urgent need for a face lift and the whole footpath, which even otherwise was well laid with tiles was demolished and a new shape was given to it. Instead of the ordinary concrete tile we now have Granite stones making it convenient for anyone to skid, in case it rains.
My curiosity took the best of me when I noticed that the foot path had a slope at regular intervals and at every break and intersection, the road was being elevated to meet the foot path level only to be told that it was being constructed as Handicap friendly. A wheel chair can move from one end to the other without a hurdle (technically). I thought over it and it seemed fair enough…. why not, the handicapped had as much right to use the foot path as anyone else, the only slip being that the foot path planner had overlooked that there were around 40 to 50 trees on either side of the foot path and they are right in the very center of it. It is still being debated, if the planners overlooked it or didn’t look at it. Only those who participated in the CWG in the handicap race could have, this too I am not sure, managed to pass through the narrow stretch, around the tree, in typical James Bond style.
Apart from this uplift of the foot path they constructed granite benches in every 100 meter stretch which now conveniently houses Tea vendors, Egg stalls, Pan walas and the many likes of them.
What was once just a lonely road is today a busy street.
This is a great piece. Completely agree. The Footpaths need to be saved.
Yes, no footpaths – whatever you have are encroached upon. Other reason is traffic madness – one needs to cross roads to reach anywhere…. Pollution and sand (dhool)…. If walking to reach the metro station, bus stops etc could be fun most people would definitely use the public transport…. And yes, to much crowd on public transport is also another reason not to use it, especially by women….