Hop, skip and jump for your life

From doctors to urban development experts, many promote walking as a healthier and more environmentally conscious choice. But how safe is it from the safety aspect? Not much, as statistics has shown and DT Next has observed in the city
Representative image
Representative image


CHENNAI: Faulty or non-existent traffic signals; lack of facilities like foot over bridges or subways, and at some spots, not even zebra crossing; motorists failing to follow traffic rules and authorities not cracking down on such drivers; and, in several instances, people disregarding their own safety. While alarming, it thus is not really surprising that pedestrians are the third highest category of road accident fatalities according to the data collated by the National Crime Records Bureau.

The situation is seemingly worse in Chennai. As DT Next recently highlighted, pedestrians formed 179 of 508 fatalities that the city reported in 2022. That is, pedestrians form more than 35 per cent of total road traffic deaths, after being hit by two-wheelers, buses, vans, etc.

According to the data for 2021 released by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), there has been a significant increase in the number of accidents in the city. Chennai ranks fifth among the cities with million-plus population when it comes to accidents on T-junctions (419 accidents), while there are another 102 accidents at four-arm junctions.

Whether it is Velachery, Ambattur or Potheri, the city lacks the basic facilities that would encourage more people to leave their vehicles behind and instead prefer walking.

“Most of the important junctions in Velachery don’t have proper traffic regulations. Three important junctions, Taramani Link Road, near the bus stop in Tansi Nagar and Vijayanagar main junction, don’t have traffic signals. There are three schools in the vicinity and the lack of proper regulations poses a huge danger,” said M Balakrishnan, secretary of Tansi Nagar Welfare Association.

“There is no pedestrian signal at the new pedestrian crossing at Taramani Link Road under the bridge and also at the U-turn near Vijayanagar,” he said. The association, which has been making efforts to resolve the issues faced by pedestrians, filed a complaint with the Additional Commissioner (Traffic) recently in this regard, Balakrishnan said.

When asked, a traffic police official from Velachery said proposals to set up traffic signals at important junctions have been sent to top authorities and added that they are expected to come up in the next few days. Till then, each of these junctions would be manned by police officials during peak hours, he added.

The situation is not different in other parts of the city. Junia Antipas, who regularly travels through Ambattur, pointed out the lack of a functional system at the four-arm junction near Ambit IT park. “It is an important junction that connects all the important roads and is mostly crowded. But it neither has signals nor police officials to regulate traffic,” he added.

S Jayachandran of Thozhan Amaipu, Ambattur, said there are many such spots in the locality where signals are non-existent. “Regulating traffic is essential near TI Cycles in Ambattur as it is difficult to take U-turn there. The same applies to the Oragadam junction near the Ambedkar statue as well,” said Jayachandran.

The blame is not entirely on motorists, as pedestrians are also guilty of disregarding rules. A 2017 study on Intelligent Transport Systems in Chennai said the public lack basic traffic manners such as awareness about the importance of traffic discipline and rules. Ignoring their personal safety and crossing even busy arterial roads have also contributed to a large number of accidents and fatalities.

However, many claim that they are left without a choice but to take risks due to the absence of signal; and in some places where signals exist, they are not functional or clearly visible to the people.

For instance, the traffic signal near Potheri railway station on the GST Road has not been functioning properly for more than a year, making it difficult for pedestrians, most of them students, to cross the busy road.

“We have to cross the road to reach our college but the traffic signals seldom work. There are traffic police officials and security personnel at peak hours in the morning and evening to help us cross the road. But at other times, we are on our own,” said Rithiga Selvakanthan, a college student.

When asked, a traffic official from Maraimalai Nagar said they have closed the turning at Potheri signal as many accidents were reported there. Also, the signals have been disconnected due to on-going road works from Guduvancheri to Singaperumal Koil. “But we have assigned police personnel near Potheri railway station to help students cross the road. Further actions will be taken after talking to senior officers,” the official said.

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