Walking on a majority of the city's footpaths is literally an obstacle race. Pedestrians are either vying with two-wheelers, which use footpaths to cross through bottlenecks on the road, or hawkers selling different kinds of wares. Adding to these obstacles are parked vehicles and utilities such as junction boxes and garbage bins.

Shopkeepers, in many places, want to reserve the space outside their shops for their clients' vehicles. However, commercial shop owners have no right to claim ownership of public space, say experts. In many places in T. Nagar and Anna Nagar while there are ‘No Parking' signs, enforcement remains poor.

Many areas in the city witness constant battle between road-users, shop owners and parked vehicles. Raj Cherubal of Chennai City Connect says that to not obstruct traffic, people visiting shops tend to park their vehicle on footpaths. However, few initiatives are already underway to check this practise. The police and Chennai Corporation are responsible for removing all kinds of encroachment on pavements. Added to this, the Highways Department is formulating guidelines for creating model footpaths on arterials roads in the city.

Since June, the traffic police have started a drive to remove encroachments and have identified 40 places. “This should be an ongoing process where we clear a place once, twice… In some we have to do very frequently,” says Sanjay Arora, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic), adding that the department has identified 30 more places where the police would act soon.

“Recently, in front of some busy restaurants on L.B.Road, the traffic police towed away vehicles that were parked on the footpath,” says Mr.Cherubal. A similar exercise was also carried out in Porur. “The police have realised the importance of putting pedestrians back on the footpath to ensure their safety,” he adds.

While Mr.Cherubal feels the traffic police and the Corporation should work in tandem to provide clearly marked parking facilities such that there is no parking on footpaths, K.P. Subramanian, former professor of Urban Engineering Department, Anna University, feels the only solution to this recurrent problem is to involve the community. “Government should empower resident welfare associations in every ward such that they act as enforcement agents. Otherwise, this problem will remain as vehicles play hide and seek,” he says.

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