SHILLONG, July 08: According to a random survey carried out in various parts of the city, more and more pedestrians said that they don’t feel safe while crossing roads. With rising road traffic in the city, which has gone to an unmanageable level, pedestrians finds their space being usurped up in the process. The condition in the city actually calls for proper sidewalks that are strictly vehicle-free zones but the reality in the city is that hawkers, vendors and even personal vehicles are prominently using the sidewalks leaving no space for the pedestrians on the streets.
While roads in the city are a constant cacophony of horns, opinions are emerging that there is a need for pedestrians’ forum, as seen elsewhere in the country, to explicitly advocate the right to walk in public spaces as a basic human right especially in a town where pedestrians have no path left for themselves. That India is a country with least amount of pedestrian infrastructure like sidewalks, proper zebra crossings and rest of it can be gauged from the roads in Shillong where pedestrians are prone to jaywalking, crossing the roads wherever they feel convenient, thereby, putting themselves and the motorists at risk.
The most menacing object on the roads, according to the public, are the two-wheelers which move in the middle of the road in a columnar manner. Pedestrians said that they have to be extra cautious while encountering the two-wheelers as they carry a constant fear of being run over by them. For them crossing on the busy roads in the city has become the biggest terror and the endless number of speeding cars and two-wheelers make it difficult to walk over to the other side of the road.
In the current scenario, some even said that they narrowly escaped being run over. There are opinions from the public that absence of road dividers is contributing to overtaking and willful movement of two-wheelers without caring for the life of those walking on the streets.
They feel that dividers – which are hardly seen in the city’s roads – can discipline vehicles and even prevent pedestrians from crossing the roads wherever they like.
A tourist from Maharashtra said that the Pune Municipal Corporation is providing crossings at short intervals so that the pedestrians wouldn’t have to take a long detour to cross the road, which can be replicated here in the city sans the shorter intervals since Shillong being a small town. A local resident seconding him observed that mid-block pedestrian crossings needs to be provided, as per Indian Roads Congress norms, in certain roads in the city.
Lack of Foot Over Bridge (FOB) in the city is also adding to the woes of pedestrians – who have to be at the mercy of the moving vehicles. FOBs are extremely rare on the roads with two-way traffic, observed many from the city. Civilians from the city opined that the local cabbies are the worst of lot since they tend to hurry whenever they see people crossing the roads.
There is no care or concern for those walking on the streets and a Shillongite, living in London said that there if vehicles see pedestrians crossing a road they slow down their speed from a distance, while inquiring, “where has all the zebra crossings in Shillong gone”. He also observed that when bigger Indian cities can have CCTVs for controlling traffic movement, what is preventing Shillong from putting the same in place or even having traffic signal lights – which provides time to pedestrians for road crossing, too.
The most affected are the disabled and elderly for whom it appears that the road does not belong to them. More and more respondents observed that pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users being at the highest risk on roads. They are constantly struggling with unruly traffic, encroachments on sidewalks and sometimes even the non-existence of footpaths in the city and are not sure what the future holds for them.