Pedestrians get the least priority in civic planning and traffic management, if the pathetic condition of footpaths in the city is any indication. Members of the Akila Bharathiya Graahak Panchayat (ABGP), a consumer awareness movement, took to the streets in the city on Saturday to enlist public support for their demand for better pavements.

The organisation launched a signature campaign in the city seeking better footpaths to protect the life and property of the pedestrians. The organisation regretted that notwithstanding its central location in the state and its importance as a historical and heritage tourist centre, Tiruchi has been woefully lacking in proper pedestrian pavements.

“In the absence of proper footpaths, pedestrians are forced to walk along the roads, which poses a threat to their safety. There have been frequent accidents and pedestrians are at the receiving end,” observes S.Ponmudi, state joint coordinator, ABGP.

Consumer organisations have being pointing out that almost none of the arterial roads in the city has footpath covering its entire distance. Footpaths in a few roads are completely under encroachments. In most places, pavements have been laid in bits and pieces and are used by shopkeepers as an extended commercial space for their operations.

In places such as the Pattabiraman Pillai Road, the entire stretch of pavements have been occupied by two-wheeler mechanic and resale shops to line up the vehicles in front of them. In other places, the pavements are ill maintained and are unsafe for pedestrians with damaged slabs and gaping pits. Senior citizens, differently abled persons and school children are the worst hit. Despite repeated representations from consumer and residents organisations, the Corporation and the police continue to turn a blind eye to the problem.

“Today, we have sought the support of the city residents to highlight the plight of the pedestrians. The campaign has received a spontaneous response from youth and other sections of the society,” Mr.Ponmudi said.

“Footpaths are an essential requirement. Footpaths are encroached upon by vendors and vehicles in the city. People like me largely prefer to walk around but we have to negotiate our way through the traffic in congested roads,” says Sanjeevi, a farmer who visits the city frequently and one of the signatories.

The organisation plans to conduct the campaign across the city during this month. “We plan to get a minimum of 10,000 signatures and submit a memorandum to the Mayor highlighting our demand,” Mr.Ponmudi added.