Zooming through Bangalore’s Pedestrian Woes

“Our purpose in founding the city was not to make any one class in it surpassingly happy, but to make the city as a whole as happy as possible.” ~ Socrates

Pedestrian woes are hitting every city as hard as any other “big city problems” they face. Narrow roads, heavy vehicular traffic and unsafe/non-existent pedestrian facilities are some of the many issues that exist in Indian cities today. Adding to these infrastructure issues is the issue of encroachment of footpaths/sidewalks by hawkers, or illegal two-wheeler and four-wheeler parking, and sometimes footpaths being used as a dumping ground for construction activities and waste in many places. Why talk about these problems? The answer to many other problems (pollution & congestion to name a few) is best answered by solving these pedestrian woes and hence it is very important to be vocal about these issues.

Own Your Adventure

Bangalore over the years has been growing in a way that has given more comfort to vehicles rather than what humans started with, i.e., walking. The number of vehicles on the streets of Bangalore has an annual growth rate of 7-10%. And we are making it worse by driving solo, not following lane discipline, and not caring about other users of the road. There is an immediate need to educate drivers about basic sensibilities like safety of children near schools (when drivers try to zoom past these schools in order to get from point A to B), health of patients at hospitals (when drivers honk non-stop and unnecessarily to get ahead of the car/ two-wheeler in front of it), and also the safety of people whose main mode of travel is walking/bicycling (as they are not as rich enough to afford cars). I don’t know what Indian cities like Bangalore are coming to- the higher the pays the lower the morals. (Recreated from Noel Coward’s quotes in Collected Sketches and Lyrics).

Bangalore is a city with the weather that makes it comfortable for mode choices like walking and biking almost throughout the year.  Walking and bicycling makes cities more interactive, healthy and hence more liveable.

“ In a quality city, a person should be able to live their entire life without a car, and not feel deprived.” ~Paul Bedford

“Walkers are ‘practitioners of the city,’ for the city is made to be walked. A city is a language; a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities. Just as language limits what can be said, architecture limits where one can walk, but the walker invents other ways to go.”
Rebecca SolnitWanderlust: A History of Walking

Some DIY’s (Do It Yourself) to make better cities:

  • Honk/ Horn only when required. (Example: if someone is backing their cars into yours, or a person/car isn’t seeing you approaching) Honking is not required at every turn you take or every move you make.
  • Do not honk/horn when you are way behind in the traffic queuing at signals. (The person ahead of you can only move when the traffic ahead of him clears out, he is not Batman on his Batmobile which can fly him across as soon as the red signal goes green)
  • Do not honk/horn near hospitals. (For Gods sake, where is your sensibility? If you do not have that, at least follow the signs in front of hospitals that say it is a non-honking zone!)
  • When you see pedestrians crossing at the zebra crossing do not compete with them and show your cars power that if they cant wait you can run them over! (Again that is just very insensitive!)
  • What happened to having safer neighborhoods? Keep yourself in place of the kid’s parents and see if it is okay to drive rash in neighborhoods (residential areas) and near schools.
  • Always follow lane discipline (this is a huge problem, which if solved will clear at least 20% of congestion problems in Indian cities, as it clears up queues that are formed by one vehicle blocking a free left/right turn). For example: If you want to go left do not try to overtake from the right and block the traffic that wants to go right, just because you want to save time. Everyone’s time is precious!
  • The pelican signals in cycles are so that pedestrians can cross during this time (generally a 60s crossing signal when vehicles from all sides are stopped). Do not encroach their space at this time. Wait for your green to move ahead of that line!
  • Follow traffic signals. They are not made for fun!

Rightly said by Jane Jacobs, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

A city need not be all about walking and bicycling, after all the point of cities is multiplicity of choice. But what is very important in these cities is that all these choices co-exist rather than competing for space and importance. And hoping most of us are romantics who like to keep their histories alive through cultures, and ethics, we definitely need to propagate the basics that a human being started off with so that we don’t get mutated and modified into a species with hind limbs as vestigials.

So this is urging all “Zoom”ers to spread the word amongst non-“Zoom”ers to help recreate this beautiful city of Bangalore in any small way possible. After all, not everything needs to be done by the people in power.  We can and should lead them towards the vision of the city we want going forward.


– Sonal Kulkarni

Sonal is an architect who now works as a transportation planner for the Director of Urban Land Transport (DULT) here in Bangalore.  She has also spent time studying and working in the United States.  She is an avid user of Zoom.


Source: Bangalore Traffic Police; Website: https://www.bangaloretrafficpolice.gov.in

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