“There are two kinds of pedestrians – the quick and the dead.” – Anonymous
It is nearing nine on a cloudy morning. I have been asked by my wife to get some household supplies from the grocery shop. I finish my coffee, take a bag and leave, making as less noise as I can because my son is still sleeping. As I am walking to the shop, I see a school van waiting to pick up a kid at the entrance of a huge apartment block. The lady collecting garbage from each house is shouting at a stray dog for digging into a heap of plastic covers. I see a group of college girls and a couple of old men waiting at a bus stop.
I reach the main road and wait near the signal for the vehicles to stop coming from the left side, so that I can cross and go to the shop on the other side of the road. Seeing that there is nearly a minute for the pedestrian light to go green, I turn my head towards the cop who is writing a receipt after catching a two- wheeler for whatever reason. I see a fellow selling goggles and jazzy watches, going from one vehicle to the other. There is also a small kid holding the latest issues of top magazines as if he is holding a few playing cards. And I try to see what is the cover story on them.
Suddenly, I remember that I need to cross the road and go to the grocery shop. I see that the vehicles coming from the left is slowing down. But even before I can step forward, the vehicles, till now obediently standing on the other side of the road, slowly start proceeding forward even before the green light is on. There are still ten seconds for the light to turn green. But the whole cavalry, with helmets on, is on its way. And you have to wait again for a few minutes if you are one of those who cross only when the green light for the pedestrian crossing is on. Sadly, I am not one of those Sprinters. More on them in the latter part of this post.
Pedestrians are the most affected by rash driving. Many traffic signals in Bangalore allow not more than 10 to 15 seconds for pedestrians to cross. It seems that Charles Darwin’s ‘Survival of the Fittest’ theory best comes into play on Bangalore’s roads. Crossing busy roads has become a daunting task for pedestrians in the city. Many victims of accidents are pedestrians. I remember reading a news item where the traffic police have admitted that they do not have adequate personnel to man all the crossings in the city. Pedestrians and two-wheeler riders form a major chunk of those killed in road accidents. The tremendous increase in both human and vehicle populations, coupled with the bad roads and the absence of proper footpaths and pedestrian-crossings, have been the causes of most accidents.
As many roads in the city have been made one-way stretches, the speeds of vehicles have increased, and pedestrians and slow-moving cyclists are at a disadvantage.
Roads that contain high pedestrian traffic should be converted into mall roads (banning vehicles), particularly roads like Commercial Street, Brigade Road, Malleswaram 8th cross, and other places. Jaywalking should also be curbed by levying higher fines, at all places apart from MG Road.
The other day, my friend told that the pedestrian behaviour itself was one of the main causes for accidents as people tended to walk on roads and cross the roads where they were not supposed to. But I told the major cause of such accidents was the inadequate pedestrian facilities all over the city. There are no pedestrian subways, foot overbridges and zebra crossings on many busy roads, including Jayachamarajendra Road and Kempe Gowda Road, in the heart of the city. On the entire stretch of Hosur Road, where vehicles normally over speed, there is not a single pedestrian crossing. Pedestrian safety has been ignored in the city.
The lighting on streets also needs to be improved. Protruding tree branches which affect visibility and roadside lighting must be cut. Road humps should be constructed in places where vehicles are inclined to overspeed, and there should be adequate information signboards placed at strategic points.
Coming back to pedestrians, notice carefully and you will find a variety of them. A Sprinter is seen often but barely. In rush hour traffic, this type will sprint across the road expecting all vehicles to slow down; better watch out for him/ her.
Then you have what is called the Houdini. Like the legendary magician, this type of pedestrian thinks he can get out of any knotty problem. You are likely to find him in the middle of traffic, squeezing himself between cars to escape to the other side. Many drivers have suffered from nervous breakdowns after facing more than one such walker on a single day.
Next is the Talking Machine; either ear glued to a mobile phone or carrying on a conversation with a fellow walker, even while crossing a road. His is a one-track mind and it isn’t on the traffic. You are advised to liberally use your horn and give him or her plenty of room. This walker may hit the punch line of a joke right in the middle of the road; you will not be laughing.
You need to watch out for the Genie too. When you are passing a stationary or slow moving vehicle, he will sprint out at you before either of you can really see each other. Sometimes he is a small boy in a hurry to get across the road, sometimes an office worker stepping down from a bus. Slow down when passing a stationary or slow moving vehicle, and you just may avoid the Genie.
Those driving at night need to watch out for the Spook; no, I’m not talking about Batman. This spook makes his rounds at night, sometimes straight out of a pub and he is usually just beyond the range of your headlights. If you want to have a ghost of chance, you should be able to stop within the distance you can see. Pity, pedestrians are not subjected to breathalyser tests.
Last but certainly not the least is the Band of Merry Men. These little ones can create big problems; you can’t even yell at them without being censured by others. Romping on the road, chasing a pup or running on the road to retrieve a ball (that might just been a sixer for a batting team), these children have disdain for you or your car. Slow down whenever you see them and give them room.
Finally, to end on a positive note, good news for pedestrians. The city now has a few traffic signals which pedestrians themselves can operate. There are switches on poles near some crossings that have traffic signals. When there are sufficient numbers of walkers who need to cross, one of them needs to just flip the switch and the signal will be activated. Vehicles will have to stop to enable pedestrians to cross the road safely. The drivers must remember that pedestrians have the right-of-way, and must stop to let them pass. Also, if schools and parents teach the kids about traffic rules and pedestrian safety, that will be a bonus. And maybe no one will blog about it in 2035.
* Still thinking ‘why the Chicken crossed the road?’ To find the answer, rather answers, stop and look left, then right, then left again, before you step into this blog carefully!!