Not a city for bikers and pedestrians?

Cars are great to own and flaunt in Delhi but to negotiate this City’s ever growing traffic – travelling on foot, by bicycles and in smaller vehicles has become a necessity. However, roads of the national capital do not seem to have the necessary infrastructure, laws or law enforcing personnel to promote walking and cycling instead of using cars.

A recent government report Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India 2011 reveals that the maximum number of casualties on Delhi’s roads are bikers and pedestrians.

Out of a total 2,107 road deaths in Delhi in 2011, 642 were motorcyclists and 603 pedestrians. Where is the problem occurring? Why can’t the City have better roads to promote and protect its ped­e­s­trians and cyclists? Why do these commuters have to bear the brunt of the Capital’s rowdy traffic?

Dr. Rohit Baluja, president of Indian Road Traffic Education (IRTE), a non-profit organisation says, “India is lagg­ing behind in the study of road traffic engineering. The number of motor­i­sed vehicles is increasing but not everyone in a developing cou­n­try can afford cars. So moto­r­i­­sed vehicles compete with non-motorised and slow movi­ng vehicles, and accidents happen.”

“England had its first road traffic engineering centre by the year 1930, US by 1932, but India still does not have a single road traffic engineering centre. In Delhi, which has over 65 lakh vehicles on roads with over 800 added every day, Delhi Traffic Police is expected to do road traffic engineering. But engineers they are not, and hence the consequences.”
Girish Kukreti, director of Institute of Road Safety and Fleet Management (IRSFM) opines,
“These days, in a bid to widen roads in Delhi, footpaths have virtually disappeared. Rest of the space is occupied by hawkers, shopkeepers, parked vehicles and ramps constructed by people to widen courtyards. Worse, open manholes on footpaths also discourage pedestrians. So, children walking to school, office-goers running after buses and all others are forced to walk on main roads. Accidents are bound to happen.”

“Cyclists and bikers,” he adds, “are the most at risk at night when commercial vehicles like trucks, speeding cabs and young people driving fast are out. There are hardly any road markings, no visible signages and traffic police cannot be present everywhere. People are also not aware of laws, so what would they teach their kids? The traffic culture of the city is deteriorating.”

As per Delhi Traffic Police, steps are being taken to impr­o­ve traffic law implementation and to spread awareness. Special Commissioner of Police (Delhi traffic) Sudhir Yadav says, “In the past few years, audits have been conducted of the roads where accidents were most frequent and corrective measures taken. In association with municipal agencies, speed calming devices like speed-breakers and rumble strips, road dividers, subways and foot-over bridges have also been installed. Unfortunately though, we still see people jaywalking, driving without helmets and over-speeding. On our part we are trying our best to enforce laws strictly but commuters must also cooperate in order to ensure their safety.”

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