According to a recent survey by the WorldWide Fund for Nature (WWF), Mumbai ranks the highest on the walkability index, while Delhi is a ‘pedestrian-unfriendly city’.
It is quite amazing that in a country where 40% of trips do not involve motor vehicles, our major cities are still so walking unfriendly. Most of our cities do not have well planned for pedestrian crossing or subways. I remember while driving down a highway, a rather new high-speed highway, suddenly, two people jump onto the road and peacefully cross the road, unaware of how much we had to brake, to slow down. We were amazed at their courage, but then, that is the only way they could cross it. There are hardly any underpasses or bridges to help people cross. So we see people, cattle, and everything else on the so called high-speed roads.
Both husband and I love walking. We used to walk a lot when we were in Bangalore. A couple of years back, in Bangalore during our holiday, we decided to walk to somewhere. We ended up being jostled, pushed and finally hailed an auto – it was just not worth the trouble. For the amount that the population has increased, the pavements seem to have shrunk. Roads have been widened at the cost of pavements for pedestrians.
The other day, I met a young Indian man, who was telling me that he was a planner of roads, motorways here, in the UK. So, I joked that he is really needed in India, that we need a lot of planning there and he told me, that there was no job for him currently in India. He hopes that in five years time or so, they would understand the need for such intense planning, right now, there was no demand. Stunning, isn’t it? I would have thought that they should be in great demand, with so much of infrastructure work going on.. Or is it just that our authorities prefer unplanned work – makes it easier to commission a new phase of development, when this one cracks? Why plan long term, when short term is more lucrative?