For a change, the plight of the silently suffering pedestrians came to the fore.
How best to get the pedestrians into the overall scheme of traffic management was the crux of the workshop on footpaths and cycling infrastructure, which attracted experts from Delhi besides representatives of GHMC, R&B, Traffic Police, HMDA and NGOs on Thursday.
Municipal Administration Minister M. Maheedar Reddy offered a simple solution for the growing interference from influential people whenever encroachments are removed.
“Switch off your cell phones. It will not take two seconds to switch off the phone using one finger. After your work is over, switch on the mobile,” the Minister remarked, drawing a round of applause from the participants.
Mr. Reddy was referring to an instance earlier pointed out by the GHMC commissioner on Road No. 36 where demolitions took place. “Even if the Minister asks why you switched off the mobile on duty, say the battery was off,” the Minister said, and added he never interfered in the demolition of illegal constructions.
This should be done in the interest of the common man who cannot afford other modes of transport, he said, strongly criticising footpaths encroachment by 70 per cent of the population.
When a car parking area in a cellar was occupied for some commercial purpose, cars would occupy footpaths resulting in pedestrians occupying roads. “A simple mistake leads to so many errors,” he said.
Mr. Reddy said the beautification of Hyderabad would not stop as desired by the Chief Minister after the biodiversity conference. Now, the development would be extended further to the entire GHMC area.
He listed out initiatives like flyovers and Metro Rail Project that are being taken up to ease traffic movement. The roads were widened several times but all this was offset by the growing number of pedestrians and vehicles.
The Minister assured the people that the government was committed to improving the situation. If required, a legislation would be enacted or necessary amendments made to protect the pedestrians.
Mayor Majid Hussain said pedestrian safety was a major concern and 40 km of the footpath was developed before the biodiversity conference. While the total city road length was 6,246 km, footpaths accounted for just 3,165 km.
An ambitious plan to develop footpaths and traffic signals in a phased manner in all the zones has been formulated to ensure pedestrian safety at a cost Rs. 50 crore - Rs. 100 crore for each zone.
He urged the government to come up with a policy framework on pedestrian design as in Delhi. “We will carry on the good work done by the GHMC and other departments during the CoP,” he said.
C.V. Anand, Additional Commissioner, Police (traffic), said Hyderabad had turned out to be a city without footpaths. Figures showed that 40 to 45 per cent accidents in the city involved pedestrians.
Except for walking, footpaths are available for hawkers, repair shops and even for tree plantation. With the help of a power point presentation, Mr. Anand explained how the pedestrians were cared for in Europe.
“But here they are at the mercy of the speedy cars. People have to put up their hands to cross the road,” he said, adding that the new traffic signalling system would provide much relief to the pedestrians.
GHMC commissioner M.T. Krishna Babu called for a clear policy on footpaths and coordination between departments to ensure pedestrian safety.