Free left turns at 57 junctions in city leave hapless walkers with no space and time to cross the roads

Like a sprinter waiting for start of the race, the young lady poised herself at the roadside at Monappa island. As the unending stream of cars, motorcycles, autos and vans whizzed past, she waited for a gap in the stream and darted across. Deftly weaving her way through, missing the car bonnets by inches, inviting angry stares from drivers, she darted across and jumped onto the pavement or what is left of it to catch her breath.

The policeman wearing the dark goggles with a digital camera in hand was busy shooting pictures of vehicles screeching to a halt beyond the stop line or those who tried to jump the signal.

Neither the policeman, who nowadays takes pride in enforcing the traffic rules vigorously, nor the motorists who seemed to be rushing to meet a deadline, seem to worry about the hapless pedestrian.

Welcome to Hyderabad. The burgeoning metropolis, where the pedestrian does not figure anywhere in traffic management, but entire focus is on facilitating the faster movement of vehicles.

If the city has the dubious distinction of having least space for footpaths, the city police have begun a new exercise of ensuring a free left turn on 57 junctions.

Anyone blocking the specified area for a left turn is to pay a penalty of Rs. 400. They had even erected red plastic cones to earmark the free left area and had the roads painted bold about the free left.

But the police seem to have conveniently forgotten about the pedestrian.

If at a junction, there is a continuous movement of vehicles, how would the pedestrians cross the road? The plight of the pedestrian has simply escaped the policeman's attention.

Before the launch of free left campaign on May 1, pedestrians used to cross the road with some difficulty. But now this free left campaign seemed to have aggravated the problem.

“Earlier we used to cross the road when the red light is on. But now it's a nightmare to cross the road”, rues a retired employee K. Krishna Murthy from Sanjeeva Reddy Nagar.

A JNTU professor P.R. Bhanumurthy who specialises in transportation studies agrees that traffic movement must be halted to allow people cross the roads. “Free left has to be restricted to allow the pedestrian”, he asserts.

“The only concern for the traffic police is to keep the carriage way clear for vehicles and pedestrian's plight is not on their agenda”, laments Right to Walk Foundation founder Kanthi Kanan.

While the motorists are forced to pay penalties for blocking free left turn, those vehicles parked on footpaths forcing walkers to step onto roads, are not in the crosshairs of the traffic police. “Though a policeman is being stationed at the free left turn areas to help pedestrians, they themselves are at risk due to speeding motorists. Given the situation, how can they extend the help?” she questions.

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