Riders on Mumbai’s footpaths hassle pedestrians

ByEeshanpriya and Aroosa Ahmed, Mumbai
Feb 07, 2020 11:38 PM IST

Along with unlicensed hawkers and poor maintenance of walkways, there’s another challenge for pedestrians who wish to use the footpaths – bikers. Currently, the city boasts of 20.89 lakh bikes, with the numbers on the rise each passing year.

HT Image
HT Image

In a recent three-part series, HT audited the condition of footpaths at 20 locations across the island city, eastern and western suburbs that see high footfall, concluding that most footpaths were not walkable. The survey also found that bikers use footpaths instead of carriageway to cut traffic. With walkways in most areas being narrow, pedestrians remain at a risk of getting injured, as the two-wheelers zoom past them, especially in areas that see high footfall, according to traffic analysts and citizens.

Imtiaz Ahmed, 64, a resident of Kurla, was a victim of such incidents twice. “The footpath near the station area is narrow, and bikers often ride close to us. The first time the injury caused by the handle of the bike was minor, but in the second instance, the gash was deep. We need a protective railing between the footpath and the road,” he said.

Bikers, too, admit to flouting the rule, but blame traffic congestion. “There is a lot of traffic on busy roads with no place to ride. We have no choice but to take footpaths, as opposed to a congested or a narrow road,” said Naved Afroz, a Chembur resident, who has been riding a two-wheeler for 10 years.

In cases where footpaths are encroached upon, both bikers and pedestrians take the lane closest to a footpath. During HT’s audit, this scene was witnessed on the busy MC Jawale Road – the link between Dadar West and railway station – where both the footpaths are encroached upon by hawkers. During peak hours, the road sees thousands of pedestrians.

In the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) backyard, gate number seven of Mahapalika Road, motorbikes lead to double lane parking on the wide and well-maintained footpath, leaving no space for pedestrians. Citizens claim that despite repeated complaints to the traffic police, no concrete action is taken against the bikers who park their vehicles or ride them.

Transport commissioner Shekhar Channe, however, stated that motorists are fined under section 177 of the Motor Vehicles Act (MVA). “There is no separate provision to fine those driving on the footpath. They are charged under section 177 MVA and we charge fines under the Act,” he said.

The BMC’s parking authority is coming up with a solution to make the end of footpaths that are punctured by lanes free of parking. “We plan to standardise parking spaces in lanes abutting main roads. We won’t allow bikes to be parked at the intersection of the lane with the main road, leaving access to the footpaths open,” said a civic official.

Ashok Datar, a senior transport analyst, said, “The main reason behind haphazard parking on footpaths is the increasing number of vehicles in the city. Each vehicle requires at least three parking spots in a day because we do not carry our parking spots with us. The increase in the number of vehicles on the street is responsible for congestion on the road.”

Currently, 1,378 of the 4,798 roads in Mumbai are less than 6 metres in width. While bikes account for 58% of the vehicle population (35.75 lakh) of Mumbai, cars, jeeps, and taxis are 30% of the vehicle population. The number of two- and four-wheelers increase between 8% and 11% a year, according to an analysis of the past two economic surveys of Maharashtra.

Datar said, “Increasing the width of roads is not a feasible solution in Mumbai. We need to look at the problem holistically. Vehicles that can accommodate two-four people, such as bikes and cars, take up much more space in proportion to vehicles that carry 40 to 50 people, such as public transport buses.”

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