18 August 2009

The argumentative pedestrian

Allow me a rant.

I walk everywhere. Work, grocery store, tailor, frame shop, fruit seller, vada pav... everywhere. And the one unifying theme of this experience is the utter disrespect and disregard for the pedestrian by vehicles of all types. Like a torrent of angry gushing water they stop for nothing, least of all the traffic light. The best way to deal with most things in urban India is a deep breath and an unshakable faith in Karma, but today, I had a reluctant break down. While crossing a wide road with oncoming traffic I was dazzled by headlights and assaulted by horns in spite of a fierce green light proclaiming that pedestrians have right of way. So, I let loose a string of strong litany on the first available two wheeler. Here is the not so pleasant part; I was abused in return.

What to do?

The simple middle class alternative is to push my discomfort to a corner and buy a car. But I'm not ready for that. Why should I be? I have fairly strong legs that carry me wherever I go and can easily finish my entire range of shopping in one big loop. What really bothers me most is that there is nothing we can do to change this. The people I normally cross the road with are workers or drivers, sent by their memsahibs to hop across the road while her Innova blocks the road. They don't have time for a dharna and certainly don't want to engage with the traffic cop. The traffic cop himself looks quite pained - wouldn't you be if you inhaled particulate matter while on your feet all day long and had to listen to incessant honks while at work?

One option, which I am fond of, is building over-bridges. The downside is that people with disabilities cannot use it. But it would help the pedestrians cross easily and at their own pace.
Drivers might also benefit. Most people behind the wheel complain that pedestrians step out from nowhere and prevent the flow of smooth traffic. I try my best to cross at Zebra crossings but there are certainly some places where there is no provision for one, in which case I do hop across as soon as possible at the narrowest point or when no traffic is going fast enough to hit me.

The situation is bad: for the drivers and pedestrians, yet I see no action plan to make things better. I could write a letter to the newspaper, the most impotent action for an activist or make a huge placard and do a sit down but no one will accompany me. What an amazing bummer!


  1. Cool! that makes two. If we had a herd of buffalos we could actually stop traffic and demand to be heard.

  2. megha why such a long gap ? No new post since ages .

  3. Hi, We agree with you entirely. We at the Right to Walk Foundation a Hyderabad based NGO are into pedestrian safety. We understand how you feel. Please do through our website ( www.right2walk.com) and the connected blog and please mail us back and join us in our fight.

    Kanthi Kannan


  4. Apanatva - Hello Aunty! hope you enjoy the new barley stir fry post. How is the new nani?

    Kantha - thank you. will peruse your link.