Why these footpaths in Mumbai are not for walking

Broad footpaths in the city allowing people to walk at a leisurely pace are a thing of the past. Squatters, vendors and illegally parked cars on pavements have robbed Mumbaikars of their right to walk on pavements these days. And while authorities try to uplift people -- quite literally -- by building skywalks, there is little to nothing they are doing to help people walk on pavements without having to manoeuvre themselves around the obstacles like hawkers and cars on the pavements around the city.

Very often, the civic body too encroaches upon the Mumbaikar’s right to walk, as they opt to widen roads at the expense of pavements. For instance, the BMC officials are thinking of widening the Keshavrao Khade Marg at Mahalaxmi by reducing the footpath space.

MiD DAY went out on to the streets to check the footpaths in the city and was appalled to find that citizens opted to take a chance with the heavy flow of traffic on the roads rather than making their way around the cars, the hawkers selling their colourful wares and the squatters who have made the cold roads their home.

Junction of SV Road and LT Road, Borivli (West)
The footpath on this congested road can easily be deemed the worst in the city. Stalls and illegal hawkers cover the entire stretch of the pavement, leaving pedestrians a sliver of legroom to walk. And, if for a minute you thought that the hawkers at the footpath were fearful of the authorities, think again. Even the pavement adjacent to the BMC’s R Central ward office is not spared as hawkers brazenly sell their wares without a care or worry. 

No space to walk: At Borivli, hawkers have encroached on to the pavements, forcing locals to walk on the roads. Pic/Nimesh Dave

What people had to say:
Shalin Shah, commuter frequenting Borivli

The condition of the roads has been the same since ages. When the footpaths aren’t being used for the purpose they were built for, they might as well break them down and widen the road, allowing smooth flow of traffic.

Siddarth Shah, resident of Borivli
The situation for pedestrians is horrible now but it will be worse if the space of footpaths is reduced. Not only the hawkers but the bikers too use them during peak hours. Hence, the chances of accidents will increase.

Yash Shah, commuter travelling to Borivli
The decision to widen roads is a good idea, as it would reduce heavy traffic during peak hours. It’s irritating when pedestrians walk on the road blocking traffic. I hope it proves to be beneficial to bikers and motorists.

SV Road, near Andheri railway station
The already overcrowded streets at SV Road, near Andheri railway station is made worse by the vendors who sell fruits, vegetables and even books. Traffic jams are an everyday feature here as most people are forced to walk on the roads, often leaving them vulnerable to accidents.

Traffic stalled: Stalls and hawkers selling fruits and vegetables on the pavement near Andheri railway station add to an already overcrowded street.

What people had to say:
Anahita Chocksey, resident of Powai
The idea of reducing footpaths cannot be accepted as hawkers already occupy half of the space. If the width of the footpath is reduced there would be no place for the pedestrians to walk.

Anish Katare, resident of Andheri
If the authorities are going to widen roads at the expense of the pavements, then pedestrians aren’t going to have any space to walk, as what little is available now is occupied by hawkers.

Tulsi Pipe Road, Dadar (West)
Mumbai is the place where dreams come true and every day, thousands from around the country flock to the city for a better life. However, reality strikes soon, and often the people are forced to live on the pavements. As years pass by, a small corner on the pavement spreads to become a full-fledged community on the pavement. And this situation holds true for Tulsi Pipe Road, where squatters have made the pavements their home, not allowing residents any space to walk.

Home, sweet home: Squatters inhabit the pavement at Tulsi Pipe road. Locals complain that one part of the pavement is their home and the other half is filthy as they throw their refuse right there

What people had to say:
Sandeep Gupta, distributor
This is a never-ending problem. The authorities will not be able to stop the hawkers from encroaching on the footpath. This situation will change only when the hawkers are removed and placed somewhere else, as their livelihood depends entirely on this. If this is done, then there will be space for the pedestrians to make use of the footpath.

Dadar (West) near Plaza
At the pavements near Plaza in Dadar, shops and stalls have overrun the footpaths. The pavement bears little resemblance to a pavement, as people crowd them buying and selling wares there, leaving locals with no option but to walk on the roads. This s not the only problem. The three bus stops on the footpath have further reduced the space on the footpath.

Hazard to life: People are forced to walk on the roads, making them more prone to accidents

What people had to say:
Rupa Vaidya, resident of Antop Hill
The footpaths are always occupied by either hawkers or slum dwellers. I have been travelling for the last 25 years and I do not remember using the footpath at all. There is absolutely no space to walk on it. The authorities should, before everything else, make this footpath available for walking. The slum dwellers occupy the major portion and the remaining area is occupied by their filth.

Shrenik Shah, resident of Kalbadevi
The problem is that the traffic on the roads is increasing. So, roads have to be widened. But one cannot have smaller footpaths -- with hawkers and people trying to walk on them. The people in power should remove the hawkers from the pavements.

Mahatma Gandhi Road, opposite Ghatkopar railway station
Stalls selling food and clothing have occupied both sides of the footpath on the 200-metre long road. In many parts, the footpath is barely more than 3-4 feet wide, and in places where it is wider, stalls have occupied it. Pedestrians are forced to walk on the busy road since there is no available footpath to walk on.

Entrenched: Hawkers have taken over the footpaths near Ghatkopar station

What people had to say:
C G Mehta, resident of Ghatkopar
Pedestrians are forced to walk on the road. If a time comes when the government decides to reduce footpaths in order to widen roads in Ghatkopar, it is definite that the stalls will occupy part of the road as well, leaving us with no space on the footpath and no choice but to once again walk on the road amid the traffic, which would have increased due to the wider roads.

Sachin Kale, resident of Ghatkopar
The footpaths on Mahatma Gandhi Road near the station are small as it is, and hawkers and stalls have always occupied them. If the government tries to reduce the size of the footpath, there will be no footpath left to walk on.

Prashant Badhe, resident of Ghatkopar
This entire stretch of the road has hawkers on both sides. During peak hours, there is excessive traffic and hawkers force us to walk on the road alongside traffic. At such times, bikers almost end up colliding with the pedestrians. If the BMC decides to reduce the size of the footpaths, they must ensure that hawkers do not encroach upon the footpath that is meant for pedestrians.

The Ward Officer of K west, Vishwas Shankarwar, said, “There is no such proposal that I am aware of in my ward and such things are done by the central agency of BMC.”

D R Dixit, in charge of Roads and Traffic, said, “This was a study we carried out in which it was reported that if the footpath was shortened it could have been easier for the commuters; but we don’t have any plans of doing it anywhere as of now.”

Anand Wagralkar, deputy municipal commissioner, said, “The encroachment drives are being carried out at every ward and illegal huts and hawkers are being removed and fined. We try to give the public space on the footpaths.”

Text/Neha Tripathi, Nigel Buthello, Iram Siddique and PicS/Sameer Markande, Nimesh Dave and Sayed Sameer Abedi 

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