Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A shortchanged pedestrian's rant

I live a dangerous life. How so, you ask? Let's try and explain this. I am part of the vast majority that lives life precariously.

I am a pedestrian and a complusive bus-hopper. Yes, this is by choice. I am a jittery driver and then again - a bus-hopper can always hop out if there is a jam and board the bus ahead ... (sure there are limits to doing that too)

Getting back to living dangerously. Well, I am part of the tribe that even though is in majority is truly in minority. I'm a pedestrian!

So, in the larger city plan, I do not exist. I kid you not. Look out of your window, or walk out of that gated community exit door and you will see roads so broad that you need to be a national level athelete to cross it in the given 10 seconds at the traffic signal. That too, if you are lucky to be standing at a signal that accepts your existence (whatever traffic signals are left, of them only a few have a 10 or lesser seconds slot for pedestrains to cross over).

Most roads today are signal free, and I was at one such road today. Richmond road on which is situated Baldwin Women's Methodist college (my alma mater) and till very recently my workplace. I was crossing to the other side of the road and after waiting patiently for a good five minutes - a friend and I decided to brave the on-coming traffic.

And we almost got killed!! No exaggeration. I was seconds close to death - don't know if a bus traveling at 5km/hr speed can kill but, it can surely cause bodily harm. Just as we reached the center of the road, a bus closed in on us, inspite of seeing us get on the road. And we were almost sandwiched between two buses - both drivers thought it wasn't their duty to stop to allow us - pedestrians - the right of way!

And this is on a stretch that is packed. And it got me thinking. Why are authorities allowing such mindless infrastructural changes? Near my home, on Bellary road highway, they are further expanding the 8 lane road. And this time they have eaten into the side walk. So, now, everytime you cross, you need to thank your stars that you crossed over unscathed.

I don't have numbers or stats to justify this. They aren't needed. Here's the simple truth - every time you get off your vehicle you are the largest minority in the town planners book. Yes, you are a pedestrian - even if it is for a minute.

Even those planning this expansion of roads are included. Then, why this gross miscalculation? Is it because they don't care or is it a way to push every city deweller to aspire to own a vehicle?

It's nothing but "Forced aspiration" a way to ensure that the consumerist culture continues. In a time where sustainablity is a word thrown around for convenience, we fail to see how encouraging a pedestrain culture makes a wise long-term sense, obviously is also sustainable.

It means better health for the citizens,
It means better air quality (lesser cars = lesser fumes)
It means lesser air-borne diseases
It means lesser visits to the doctor
It means reduced noise pollution
It means lesser road accidents/deaths
And all this adds to a better quality of life.

Yet, we the largest minority on the roads of Bangalore city or actually almost every Indian city are being shortchanged. We are the lesser mortals whose lives hold no value - because we don't zip around in shiny bikes or guzzler cars.

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