There is no place to walk in this city. Although the number of vehicles here has touched 25 lakh, Mumbai remains a city of pedestrians, with 51 per cent of the population choosing to walk to their destination. Despite this, however, little attention is paid to their safety, so it’s hardly surprising that 61 per cent of the fatalities in road accidents are not motorists but pedestrians and cyclists.
Mumbaikars cross Maharshi Karve road at the Ahilya Bai Holkar chowk at Churchgate. More than half the city’s population comprises pedestrians, transport experts pointed out at a road safety meet yesterday. Pic/Suresh KK
However, with the state’s annually observed Road Safety Fortnight coming up between January 2 and 16, the authorities now intend to bring this issue to the forefront. At a meeting held in Bandra Kurla Complex yesterday, transport experts pointed out the heavy death toll of pedestrians in Mumbai each year.
Experts pointed out that last year, 1.4 lakh people died on the road across the country, while 600 died in Mumbai alone. To put this into perspective, they added that it would take 10 commercial airplane crashes every day through the year to notch up the same death count.
Transport experts are of the opinion that pedestrians are not taken into consideration when roads and footpaths are planned, especially in cities like Mumbai. The state too does little to control the number of vehicles, which has now reached 25 lakh in Mumbai. Every day, around 800 vehicles are added to this figure. However, the percentage of Mumbaikars using private four-wheelers and two-wheelers form barely 2 per cent of the population, as opposed to the 51 per cent who walk. Despite this, the sole focus is on improving the quality and technology of vehicles, and not improving pedestrian safety, said the experts.
“In Mumbai 61 per cent of the fatalities involve pedestrians and those using bicycles,” said Binoy Mascarenhas, an expert from EMBARQ, an international transport planning agency.
“If we do the calculations, every three and half minutes, a person dies in a road accident,” said V Joshi, who is a driving trainer.
Need safer driving
The lack of space isn’t just affecting pedestrians, even learner drivers hardly get any road space for proper training. Officials claim there is also a flaw in the training process at the 152 motor driving schools in Mumbai.
There must be greater emphasis on making regulations stringent for those applying for driving permits, but currently, obtaining a licence is very easy.
“We lack staff, but, we have started a computerized licensing process,” said S Sasane, Deputy Regional Transport Officer (Wadala).
“The traffic in Mumbai will get worse in the years to come. Motorists continue to flout traffic rules despite knowing the consequences,” said N Chavan, DCP, Mumbai Traffic Police. This is clear from the fact that every month, insurance companies get around 20,000 motor accident claims.
Currently, there is a provision in the Motor Vehicles Act that allows for the suspension of driving permits for a period of three months or more, if motorists are caught cutting lanes, and speeding, drink driving or driving under the influence of drugs.
RTOs are also looking to get assistance from the vehicle dealers and motor driving schools to explain the intricacies of manoeuvring four- and two-wheelers to learners. They have also stressed on the need to make road safety awareness a part of the curriculum at schools and colleges.
In the run-up to the Road Safety Fortnight and after, this issue will remain in focus, as the Ministry of Road Transport has also sought a report on pedestrian safety measures to be submitted by January 31.
Death by road
Road accident deaths in India: 1.4 lakh annually
Road accident deaths in the world: 13 lakh annually
Transport use in city
Auto and taxis: 5%
Cars and bikes: 2%