Footpaths are shrinking by the day in the city, thanks to encroachment by vendors. To add to the chaos, two-wheelers are increasingly eating up footpath space to speed past busy thoroughfares.

Pedestrians on many main roads have to bear the brunt of motorists encroaching upon their space while they are walking on the footpath or waiting at the bus stand.

Smitha Nair, who commutes from her office near CIPET bus stop on Jawaharlal Nehru Salai to Velachery, is irked with the behaviour of two-wheeler riders, especially in the evenings. “From 7 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. it is worse with traffic moving at a slow pace. That's when there is a stream of two-wheelers riding on the footpath through the bus stand,” she says. “Once I refused to make way for a motorist but he kept honking and I was forced to move,” adds Ms. Nair.

Many other commuters waiting at the stand say that the on-going Metro Rail work has added to bottlenecks on the stretch. As there is no space on the road, two-wheelers squeeze between the chairs and the railings in the bus stop and make their way.

Pedestrians on many other roads in the city, including stretches of Nelson Manickam Road, Anna Salai in Saidapet, Inner Ring Road in Thirumangalam and Rameswaram Road in T. Nagar, have similar complaints.

According to K.P. Subramanian, former professor, Urban Engineering Department, Anna University, if the Highways Department adopted the standards of the Indian Roads Congress (IRC), many of the concerns could be addressed. As per IRC, there are three types of footpath – mountable, semi-barrier and barrier.

“If footpaths are designed the semi-barrier type, which will be at a height of 15 to 20 cm, it should prohibit motorists from climbing on to the footpath,” he says. In the city, footpaths are arbitrarily designed, on some stretches they are 25-30 cm high, while in some others there is no difference in height between the road and footpath, he adds.

Sanjay Arora, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic), says encroachment by vendors and use of pavements by two-wheelers is a matter of concern, and the department has identified 20 major main roads where the police would initiate action against such violators.

“Enforcement has to be done periodically. Today, if you remove shops in one area, the next day they come up again. It has to be done repeatedly. To start with, we have decided to go step by step on these identified roads,” he says.

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Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012

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