CHENNAI: Every day, techies on Old Mahabalipuram Road play their own version of steeplechase. With a backpack on their shoulders, they run across the road, scale a three-foot- high median and dodge oncoming buses and cabs to reach the foyers of their offices. But they do not know that the city’s IT corridor has been recording the highest number of deaths due to jaywalking over the years.
There are 15 foot over-bridges between the Madhya Kailash Junction and Siruseri, one every 1.5km, but they are rarely used. “It (jaywalking) does make me nervous,” said 32-year-old Vinay Nair, a techie working as project manager in one of the BPOs. “I have seen a young man die. But this happens every day in most places across the city,” he said.
Vinay is not wrong. It is not just foot over-bridges on OMR, subways on Poonamallee High Road and GST Road remain empty.
To reduce pedestrian deaths, the mobility plan policy document for Chennai says the government has planned to double the number of subways and foot over-bridges in the next five years. But there have been no campaigns to encourage people to use the existing facilities even though the number of pedestrians killed in road accidents remains high. More than 1,000 people are killed in accidents every year in Chennai. In 2018, 290 pedestrians were killed.
Jaywalking is one among the top reasons for the deaths, police said. Yet, most pedestrians are not booked. “There is a law against jaywalking,” said R T L Chandar, a Madras high court advocate. “Pedestrians can be booked for obstructing traffic under Section 283 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 201 of the Motor Vehicles Act. But police prefer to book motorists (in case of accidents) so that pedestrians, even if they are violators, become eligible for compensation by insurance firms,” he said.
Experts said walking, like driving, needed strict enforcement. “The problem is that the pedestrians don’t even think it is a violation or compromise on safety,” said IIT-M professor Ventakesh Balasubramanian, who works with the department of engineering design.
“Jaywalking is a product of mob mentality,” said Preethi Manohar, counselor at Sooriya Hospital. “Pedestrians often cross the road in a herd,” she said.
Pedestrians who spoke to TOI had their own excuses for jaywalking. Many said they did not want to climb stairs to reach the other side of a road.
“We need bridges such as the one at Alandur,” said Antony Ruben, a civic activist from Thiruvottiyur. The Alandur FoB has escalators and stairs. “Stairs in most foot over-bridges are steep. Subways are dingy and ill-lit. Men drink and do drugs inside subways. Women find them unsafe,” he said.
Urban planners reject the idea of adding more subways and FoBs and call for more pedestrian-friendly zebra crossings at street level. Aswathy Dilip, senior programme manager, Institute of Transportation and Development Policy, said according to Indian Road Congress guidelines, urban streets should have frequent pedestrians crossings — one every 80m to 150m (commercial areas) and 80m to 250m (residential areas).Source: TOI