Mangaluru: When Mangaluru is on the verge of becoming a “Smart City” and constructing of brand new footpaths is under its development plans, but unfortunately there are not-so smart citizens who in spite of existing footpaths don’t use them, instead walk on the street/road. So what good is it to have footpath for pedestrians when they care less to use it. Within few minutes of my observation, I noticed that 9 out of 10 people prefer to walk on the streets rather than on the footpaths. It’s funny that citizens complain about not having proper pedestrians walkway, but when there are a few footpaths that are existing in this “Smart City” , there are quite a few citizens who are not “Smart” enough to use them.
Let alone the violations committed by motorists, Mangaluru’s bigger problem is about those committed by the pedestrians themselves despite mostly them turning out to be victims when they resort to this kind of a traffic violation—jaywalking. When Team Mangalorean dissected the problem, we found that the problem is actually forced upon the people; and which is why even the traffic police nowadays give a blind eye to pedestrians carelessly walking on the roads without a care about being possibly run down by speeding vehicles.
If you take a walk around the city, you will realise that most of the time you will be forced to walk on the road despite a footpath existing alongside. And then, you will realise that therein lies the problem about jaywalking, and why Mangaluru pedestrians “have it in their blood” to walk on the roads even where there are wide footpaths provided by the civic agencies to walk on. I am not saying every existing footpaths in the City are proper condition, but there are a few which are wide open for walking freely.
But when most footpaths are either encroached upon or obstructed by ongoing civic works that take an eternity to be completed. At other places (and this seems to be an accepted practice in Mangaluru), huge electric transformers sit on footpaths, often partly sticking out on the roads to force even law-abiding pedestrians to step out on the road to offer their lives on a platter to oncoming speeding motorists. Or either there is a cobbler , Pani Puriwallah, fruits seller, sugarcane juice vendor or other illegal street vendors occupying major part of the footpath, then the pedestrians have no choice than to walk on the road.
Speaking to Mangalorean.com, a traffic police inspector near Hampankatta Circle said, “I will agree that Jaywalking is because of no proper footpaths across the City.Unless proper footpaths are provided, we (the traffic police) cannot stop pedestrians from walking on the roads. It is not fair on our part to book cases against pedestrians when spaces that are provided for them are not fit to be walked on-some roads in Mangaluru have no footpaths at all. Jaywalking also slows down the movement of vehicle traffic although the roads have enough space for the vehicles to ply on. City is lacking footpaths and every authority concerned is aware of it. We don’t need to recommend improving footpaths to them because they know what they have to do. But on the other hand, when there are good footpaths and people not using them, and instead walking on the streets is ignorant. We need to educate such people their responsibility to use footpaths, rather than walk on the road creating nuisance to the motorists’.
But because of this issue falling between the stools of two departments (responsibility of maintaining footpaths is with Mangaluru City corporation, while enforcing anti-jaywalking lies with the traffic police), the jaywalking problem has become rampant across Mangaluru-There is not a single intersection of dozens of intersections in Mangaluru where the traffic police are seriously enforcing penalties against jaywalkers anymore despite finding them everywhere.
Sources reveal that Karnataka Traffic Control Act (1960) prescribes a court fine for jaywalkers- but no cops are strictly implementing this law. The fine amount depends on the magistrate before whom the jaywalkers are produced. But sympathetic traffic police have been letting the violators off the hook. Police also say that jaywalkers do not wish to walk on the footpaths although in some places there are good enough footpaths. “When a lower-ranked policemen deployed on duty ask jaywalkers to make space for motorists by using the footpaths, they get into arguments with them as they are no longer booking cases against them,” said a traffic police constable.
However, the fact remains that when used in the technical sense, jaywalking specifically refers to violation of pedestrian traffic regulations and laws, and is therefore illegal. It is widely known that in many countries regulations on jaywalking do not exist, and even the concept of jaywalking is an unknown concept. But in India—and for that matter, Mangaluru, in particular, because of the mushrooming population—at least, from the welfare point of view jaywalking needs to be nailed if road deaths need to be brought down. And it should be the joint responsibility of the traffic police and the civic agencies. And if there is a decent footpath use it, rather than walking on the street-thank you!