Pedestrians are least priority, vehicles rule the roost: A walk through Kochi’s MG Road

Cracked slabs, gaping holes, speeding vehicles make footpaths a nightmare to tread.
Pedestrians are least priority, vehicles rule the roost: A walk through Kochi’s MG Road
Pedestrians are least priority, vehicles rule the roost: A walk through Kochi’s MG Road
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The MG Road in Kochi has always been one of the busiest stretches in town. Tarred over four kilometres, the road is well-maintained with spacious showrooms sporting leading brands stocked up on both sides.

But for those looking to traverse the road, especially during peak hours, it is a literal pedestrian nightmare.

“Every other day someone falls in to the drain beneath the foot-path, as most of the slabs lie cracked and unattended by the Corporation. Just the other day, an old lady fractured her leg. Most victims are aged or very young. These gaping holes become traps especially after sunset, when visibility is less,” says Chandran who runs a juice shop at the corner of MG Road.

Footpaths do exist on either side of the road, but only in name. Nowadays, the walkways resemble more of broken, disparate tiny islets that need to be crossed with much dexterity and skill.

At some points, you find vehicles parked bang in the middle, while the broken or missing slabs in many areas ensure you practise the long jump with alarming regularity.

Authorities very diligently ensure the maintenance of the road per se, but when it comes to footpaths/walkways, they prefer turning the other way.

Speaking to The News Minute, Dhanuraj -Chairman of Centre for Public Policy Research, a Kochi based think-tank- opines that provision of space for vehicles alone will not benefit the city in the long run:

“Footpaths should be considered a common man’s Fundamental Right. The spurt in the number of vehicles will not prove beneficial to the city in the long run. All it does is create more hazards with each passing day.

The Indian Road Congress had earlier set certain specifications on construction and maintenance of footpaths. It depends on an average number of people who make use of these. But these guidelines have never been revised in tandem with the changes that take place in the physical environment of any given place.”

Risk a walk along the MG Road footpath, and you find not just two-wheelers but even four-wheelers trying to mow you down when they want to make it through the junction, just before the signal turns red.

“The concept of ‘pedestrianization’ has to be implemented here. Gangtok is the best example in India, when it comes to pedestrianizing cities. Footpaths ought to be constructed at a minimum prescribed height,” feels Dhanuraj.

People tripping into the drains below the footpaths are a usual sight. But not many are aware that guidelines exist, when it comes to construction of drains too.

‘Storm-water drainage that usually lies beneath these paths are not adequately maintained, as per pedestrianization standards. Ideally, one should have an accurate picture of even the amount of water flowing through these drains,” he remarks.

According to Dhanuraj, pedestrians should be given priority, even when the footpath is laid in front of a shop or a house:

“People need to walk effortlessly, especially old people who should be able to do so without any hindrances. Here, we find electric posts, parked vehicles and various other obstructions. This is exactly why people hate to walk through the city, only because there is no proper facility in place.”

For him, footpaths should have a luring ambience that entices people to walk, as seen in Amsterdam or Copenhagen. It is because of the absence of such an environment that people opt to travel in vehicles, and not on foot.

Lack of enforcement is -he believes- another reason for ill-maintained footpaths. That the traffic police lets violators who park or drive on footpaths go scot-free only worsens matters.

Kochi Deputy Mayor TJ Vinodh however insists that the Corporation has allotted certain funds for pedestrianization, with work on footpaths already underway in the Kaloor area. “We plan to extend the renovation to all parts of the city to make them more pedestrian- friendly,” he says.

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