Pursue your rights down the walkways

A national conference in Pune seeks to empower pedestrians to fight for safe walking spaces

February 22, 2020 05:13 pm | Updated 05:13 pm IST

Karnataka Bengaluru   17/04/2018  Motorists Riding on  Footpath at KR Puram in Bengaluru on April 17, 2018.
Photo: Sampath Kumar G P

Karnataka Bengaluru 17/04/2018 Motorists Riding on Footpath at KR Puram in Bengaluru on April 17, 2018. Photo: Sampath Kumar G P

When you have lived in two metros or more in a manner that requires you to travel their length and breadth on a regular basis, there is always an improved understanding of pedestrian infrastructure. You end up seeing patterns, and sometimes the lack of them.

Having seen Chennai and Bengaluru, I could say both have a lot of ground to cover, in terms of improving pedestrian infrastructure.

In both metros, there is a need for pedestrians to assert their right to safe walking spaces. Residents of these cities can probably take a cue from groups in a few other Indian metros, especially Pune.

Issues concerning pedestrians will be in the spotlight at a national conference on the theme ‘Right to Walk’, organised by Parisar — a civil society organisation that plays an advocacy role, for sustainable development — on February 28 and 29 in Pune.

A note says that the conference would enumerate the rights that exist, identify the factors that undermine the rights of pedestrians and explore ways in which pedestrians must organise and fight for their rights.

“We shall look at other such movements and identify strategical alliances. The event will also enable activists and organisations to ideate on ways to move ahead. Finally, it will highlight the plight of pedestrians as well as the need for a strong collective action if the rights, which only exist on paper, are to be realised on the ground,” reads the release.

A panel discussion, for instance, will focus on why pedestrians are not vocal about issues like illegal parking on footpaths and clashes with motorists, and what empower pedestrians.

Rishi Aggarwal, a pedestrians’ rights advocate and one of the speakers at the event, says unfortunately most of these topics do not resonate with most Indians. He says a lot more needs to be done to improve walkability in cities.

Aggarwal founded the Walking Project in 2012, which is as an advocacy group for a safer, convenient and joyful walking experience in Mumbai.

“We need committed organisations that are advocates for walkablity infrastructure and this should be membership-driven,” says Aggarwal, who is founder and director of Mumbai Sustainability Centre. Members should be from the city and they should be those who use the footpath regularly.

Lack of confidence

In most cities, most pedestrians don’t demand a street that is friendly to their concerns. Most people may not be aware of their rights and when they do, they may lack the confidence to act. No city has an effective mass-based pedestrian pressure group, say the organisers.

A panel discussion on efforts taken by community to assert the right of pedestrians will have case studies from West Bengal, Bengaluru public transport and also from a gender perspective.

A panel discussion on “Pedestrian, air pollution and health” will discuss how pedestrian-friendly city is also a healthy city. Social groups and individuals who are interested in issues related to pedestrians are welcome to attend the conference.

For details, visit https://parisar.org/

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