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On city roads, pedestrians at the receiving end

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BLIND RUSH: Pedestrians and cyclists vying with each other to cross the arterial Anna Salai near Bata showroom on a busy evening. Photo K. Pichumani.
BLIND RUSH: Pedestrians and cyclists vying with each other to cross the arterial Anna Salai near Bata showroom on a busy evening. Photo K. Pichumani.

For the traffic police, tackling jaywalkers is proving to be a major challenge, says L. Srikrishna

Jaywalking can be as dangerous as rash and negligent driving. The fine imposed on jaywalkers may be "nominal," but they may sometimes pay the price with their lives.

While driving along busy thoroughfares by itself requires focussed attention, motorists could do without having to negotiate with jaywalkers. Police are concerned that the jaywalking culture is catching on at a time when pedestrians are at the receiving end of an explosion in traffic density.

Last year alone, 397 pedestrians were killed on the city roads, according to records available with the traffic police. Data also indicate that 35 per cent of fatal accidents reported in 2006 involved pedestrians.

Major challenge

Police are finding it a major challenge to discipline jaywalkers who interrupted the flow of traffic.

Pedestrians, who depended on public transport, say they find it extremely difficult to cross a road intersection after alighting from a bus or suburban train. Their attempts to cross the road at random throw traffic haywire and even triggers street brawls, police say.

Though there are nearly 20 subways in the city, the number is negligible when given the population and requirements, according to traffic police. Most subways are out of favour with the public for various reasons, notably because of poor upkeep or because they are haunts of anti-social elements.

Foot-over bridges

There is a need for more foot-over bridges, subways, lifts and escalators that the elderly and physically challenged can use, residents say.

Traffic police at Central Railway Station and other busy points say their instructions to pedestrians to use the subway go unheeded. For the elderly and children, it would be better if the authorities provided user-friendly foot over-bridges and escalators, they note.

In the context of the ever-increasing road traffic, it is high time the authorities accorded importance to pedestrians, says M. Thiagarajan, a road safety patrol activist. Due to the limited strength of traffic police personnel, it would be difficult to post uniformed police at all points.

Hence, in the larger public interest, the representatives of local bodies should take the initiative in establishing long-term infrastructure for pedestrians, he said.

Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Sunil Kumar says Home Guards were being pressed into traffic duty during peak hours at key junctions to make things easier for pedestrians.

The police department is discussing with the Corporation authorities the need to construct more user-friendly foot over-bridges.

The poor lighting in some sub-ways will also be addressed, he further says.

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