Sunil Bhatia, 40, is a sales executive at a hotel in Chakala, Andheri (East), and often walks to work from his home in nearby Saki Naka.
It’s good exercise and a healthy way to start the day. Or at least it would be, in a more pedestrian-friendly city. Instead, Bhatia is forced to stumble along chaotic Andheri-Kurla Road, where the pavements are a mess of ditches and rubble, disappearing altogether in some stretches.
“The walk is so tedious and time-consuming that I would prefer to drive,” he says. “But then, the traffic is so bad… it’s really a lose-lose situation.”
The walk should take Bhatia 25 minutes; instead, navigating through non-existent footpaths, ditches, dug-up sections and missing paver blocks takes at least 40 minutes.
“It’s a huge nuisance, and also very risky because I often end up walking on the road in moving traffic, and then there are the potholes and manholes that you can fall into,” says Bhatia.
Across the city, the situation is similar for anyone trying to use the roads as a pedestrian. “Authorities refuse to accept that space is limited and keep trying to make more space for vehicles,” says Krishnaraj Rao, an RTI activist who works for pedestrian rights. “The footpaths, meanwhile, are badly paved in most areas, or have deteriorated from being encroached upon by parking, construction activities and hawkers.”
At Princess Street, for instance, the paver tiles have been laid unevenly, making the street treacherous, especially for children and senior citizens.
“At peak rush hour, you sometimes cannot see that the pavement is about to dip ahead of you,” says Paresh Mehta, who runs an electrical store on Princess Street. “This is very dangerous for the elderly.”
“Pavements are routinely dug up by different agencies, which causes deterioration,” said Chanda Jadhav, assistant municipal commissioner for C ward. “We try to maintain them as far as possible, but there are several factors which cause them damage, such as rain, drainage, encroachments etc.”
“As per guidelines issued by the Delhi high court, applicable to all cities, each road should have a 7-feet-wide pavement at a height of eight or nine inches from the road level,” says Mohan Siroya of citizen and consumer rights NGO Consumer Complaint Cell. “But this is not enforced, and pavements keep disappearing to accommodate more vehicles.”