Why many Mumbaikars avoid subways and skywalks

Pedestrians have subways and skywalks to aid them to negotiate traffic on the roads, but many prefer to flirt with danger rather than risk using them

Walking on the city’s roads is a tough task. Traffic and congestion compound matters during peak hours. The underground subways, overhead foot overbridges across roads and skywalks offer some reprieve to pedestrians.

The Santacruz skywalk helps many avoid crossing the congested Western Express Highway. Pic/Satyajit Desai
The Santacruz skywalk helps many avoid crossing the congested Western Express Highway. Pic/Satyajit Desai

Fraser Rodrigues, St Andrew’s College student uses the Bandra skywalk from the station to Hill Road every day. He says, “The four-way road near Lucky Restaurant is very busy. A few months ago, one of my friends met with an accident.

Andheri skywalk is notorious for having illumination issues. Pic/Kaushik Thanekar
Andheri skywalk is notorious for having illumination issues. Pic/Kaushik Thanekar

A car banged into him and he fractured his leg as he was crossing the road towards Bandra station. After that we always take the skywalk, now.”

Rather than climb down and use the subway many at Sion find running across the road, a better option. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Rather than climb down and use the subway many at Sion find running across the road, a better option. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Beggar blues
While the skywalk is a blessing, the hawkers and beggars make life difficult for pedestrians who use it every day. Rodrigues says, “The beggars sleeping and hawkers selling their wares have made the skywalk very crowded. Walking is very difficult as a result.

Churchgate subway has an eerie look often which makes many women avoid using it. Pic/Suresh KK
Churchgate subway has an eerie look often which makes many women avoid using it. Pic/Suresh KK

But compared to the congested road, the skywalk is preferred. If authorities cleared the skywalk of these, it would be much easier to walk.” Hawkers and beggars are a problem at Churchgate and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) subways, too.

Bandra skywalk is home to a number of beggars, junkies and sellers
Bandra skywalk is home to a number of beggars, junkies and sellers

These subways connect the Western and Central Railway main stations to areas around them. Sudarshan Mehra who works at Ballard Pier uses the Churchgate subway. He says, “The hawkers make the subway very dirty and walking is sometimes very difficult. Just to avoid this, I run across the road.

Mourishka Vora Saviera Barretto
Mourishka Vora and Saviera Barretto

The beggars are another nuisance. I have asked the police a number of times to clear them; but they claim that they don’t have orders from the top.” His colleague Mustafa Sharif who uses the CST subway also has similar complaints.

Fraser Rodrigues Ivan Couto
Fraser Rodrigues and Ivan Couto

The Mumbra resident says, “The subway is always crowded and more than pedestrians there are hawkers and food sellers. To avoid the mad rush in the subway, very often I prefer to dash across the road. I know it is dangerous, but it is much faster and less chaotic.”

Lights out
Andheri East resident Mourishka Vora, who uses the skywalk on her way to and from college, tries avoiding it at nights. She says, “The Andheri skywalk is very lonely with people preferring to cross the roads. I find it less crowded so I use it during the day. At night however, the lighting is very bad and a portion of the skywalk is always without lights.

There are also groups of troublemakers who hang out there, so to avoid any untoward situation, I do not use it at night.” The Santacruz subway is another public space which is perpetually in darkness. Rahul Nandi, a banker who uses the subway, says, “I carry a torch to be able to go through the darkness.

There are a number of drug dealers and people who take drugs in the subway, even with Vakola police station so close by. I have tried complaining to the police, but there has been no change in the situation. The police drive them away, but they return after a few days.”

Sion subway is also a den for anti-social elements. Sachin Lal, an artist who lives there, says, “The lights are perennially on the blink, so beggars, drunkards and drug addicts all frequent the subway. Using it is very dangerous. It is better to cross the road, rather than risk getting mugged or robbed.”

Safer option
Ivan Couto, who uses the Bandra and Santacruz skywalks, finds them a great place to do his daily exercise. He says, “The skywalks are better maintained than the roads beneath, with potholes and other obstacles. So for brisk walking they are much more convenient. The air is cleaner too, there is less noise pollution as well up there.”

For Saviera Barretto, the skywalk at Santacruz is a time saver on her way to work. The media professional says, “I prefer to walk, and the skywalk saves a lot of time as the Western Express Highway (WEH) is always jammed. The skywalk is a huge blessing as it saves me from the frustration of a traffic jam.”

The subway at Dhobitalao near Metro cinema is a huge blessing for students of St Xavier’s College. Sara Phillips, a student says, “The subway is well maintained and clean with great security from 7 am to 7 pm. The road is a four-way and while crossing it; one has to look in all directions to be able to cross safely. I like listening to music on the way to college, and so I can cross the road and walk without much trouble thanks to the subway.”

Across the bridge
For her friend, Waqar Mohammad who lives at Churchgate, “The subway is a good option and I use it, even if crossing takes less time. Once when I tried to run across the road, I just missed being hit by a bus. From that time, I have started using the subway.

On my way back home too, I use the foot overbridge near Wankhede Stadium, it helps me cross the road as well as the railway tracks. It takes time, but it is a safer option.” The public bridge near Century Mill in Dadar is a hub for squatters and a resting place for beggars and urchins.

Sayyed Khan, a perfume trader who uses it regularly says, “I find the bridge convenient rather than crossing the road as I have a fear of traffic. The bridge takes time to climb and get down, but it is good exercise for me.

Also, I am more at peace when I reach my destination. I have clients in the area, so I frequent the Dadar area almost every day. The beggars and urchins do not harass anyone, but people get scared and avoid it.” Vasanti Ranga, a chartered accountant says, “I prefer crossing the road. The beggars and urchins look very scary.

As a woman, I am wary and so avoid putting myself in danger. It is better to dodge the traffic rather than risk sexual violence. If I am with my colleagues, I use the bridge. The authorities need to ensure that pedestrian bridges are safe for women at all times and these anti-social elements stay away.”

Safety, infrastructure and inconvenience are some of the main reasons why pedestrians prefer to avoid using subways, skywalks and foot overbridges. But risking an accident or getting run over should not be an option.

The authorities need to make these public amenities more pedestrian-friendly by addressing everyday problems. This will ensure that these are used much more than they are currently.

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