Tamil Nadu has topped the list of the states with the maximum number of pedestrian deaths between 2015 and 2017.
According to data released by the central government in recently concluded Parliament session, 9,091 pedestrians had died on the roads in Tamil Nadu from 2015 to 2017. The data also showed how the situation in the state has aggravated as Maharashtra — which ranked second — recorded only 5,096 pedestrian deaths, which is almost 4,000 fewer deaths registered in this state.
While attributing the huge number of deaths in the state to the increasing number of vehicles and urbanisation, Sumana Narayanan, a road safety researcher from citizen consumer and civic action group (CAG), said pavements in the state, especially in Chennai, are rife with illegally parked cars and garbage strewn all over them.
“We should stop parking on pavements to provide space for walking. Even, allowing one-way traffic is dangerous for pedestrians as crossing the roads too has become an uphill task,” Sumana said.
She added that the overbridges on the roads are of little help as a majority of the pedestrian, especially the elderly and those with disabilities, cannot use such facilities.
“Instead of over bridges, the authorities should create more zebra crossings as per Indian Road Congress (IRC) norms with necessary lightings. Also, over bridges for vehicles should be built at spots which experiences high number of pedestrians who need to cross roads,” Sumana said.
Explaining the need for education and awareness, she urged the government to make aware the applicants seeking driving licenses of the rights of the pedestrians. Sumana said, “This will bring about a change in the drivers’ mentality.”
Meanwhile, PwD (Persons with disabilities) activists point out that Tamil Nadu is lagging in providing safety facilities on roads for disabled people.
“Pavements should be built with wheelchair-friendly facilities. But most of the pavements in the city lack this facility. To help the visually impaired pedestrians while crossing the roads, signals should have audible signs. Only a few signals in Chennai have this facility,” S Namburajan, state general secretary of Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently Abled and Caregivers said.
Pointing out the lack of funds, Namburajan added that Centre had launched Accessible India Campaign to create an accessible environment for people with disabilities.
“The government also selected Coimbatore to implement the project but is yet to release funds. Several projects in the state is delayed due to the lack of funds,” Namburajan said.
Even though the Greater Chennai Corporation had proposed non-motorised transport policy several years ago to encourage pedestrian movement by upgrading pedestrian-friendly facilities, the city is yet to become pedestrian-friendly.
Now, the civic body has started looking for a consultant to prepare non-motorised transport masterplan for Chennai. “The masterplan will propose measures for converting the city’s roads to aid pedestrians,” a Chennai Corporation official said.
He added that the masterplan would initially concentrate on the roads leading towards schools and other public facilities. “The plan will envisage in creating 100 kilometres streets with wider footpaths, safe pedestrian crossings, on-street parking and other aspects,” the official said.
Meanwhile, V Gopalakrishnan, a civic activist said that car owners are using the wider pavements to park their vehicles forcing pedestrians to walk on the roads.
“When on one hand the Chennai Corporation widens pavements in KK Nagar, motorists have begun to use the pavements to park cars. Also, owing to wider pavements, the roads have become narrower, increasing risks for pedestrians,” Gopalakrishnan said.