Hawkers push pedestrians off SPL walking lane

Published: 08 November, 2012 06:54 IST | Sukirt D Gumaste and Sandeep Kolhatkar |

Absence of permanent barricades to demarcate Walking Way created on Laxmi Road last year results in illegal stalls grabbing pedestrian space and causing traffic chaos in prime shopping district as Diwali approaches

The Walking Way implemented on Laxmi Road a year ago to create a pedestrian-friendly environment is now turning into ‘shopping way’ because of illegal hawkers. The absence of permanent barricades is causing traffic chaos in the main market district of the city in the festival season.

Edged out: The traffic congestion on Laxmi Road yesterday. Many pedestrians are forced to walk on the road even amid such heavy traffic because hawkers have occupied the Walking Way. Pic/Krunal Gosavi

To give priority to pedestrians, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) had implemented the Walking Way on Laxmi Road in November 2011 by creating additional walking space adjacent to the regular footpath. The extra space for pedestrians was marked off by installing barricades and banning parking on the left side to avoid heavy traffic congestion.

The objective of the Walking Way was to encourage people to not bring vehicles to Laxmi Road, which sees heavy traffic congestion during the festival season.  A visit to Laxmi Road yesterday showed that despite the No Hawkers Zone there, most of the Walking Way space had been encroached upon by hawkers and pedestrians were compelled to walk on the road space meant for vehicular traffic.

“The Walking Way has been implemented on a permanent basis, but I don’t understand why the PMC is not putting up permanent barricades,” social activist Prashant Inamdar, who is president of Pedestrian First, said. “Shop owners move the existing barricades as per their convenience. Absence of permanent barricades and illegal parking of four-wheelers, which occupy 50 per cent of the road, are the root cause of the problem.

Obstacle course: Pedestrians make their way through whatever space is left for them by hawkers on the Walking Way on Laxmi Road. As paucity of space makes pedestrians spill over on to the part of the road meant for vehicluar traffic, the resultant traffic chaos has to be seen to be believed in the shopping district as people flock to stores for Diwali purchases. PIC/Krunal Gosavi

The traffic police had issued a notification last year. For the last one year we have been demanding permanent barricades, but no action has been taken. Also, four-wheelers should be completely banned during the peak hours.”  Police Inspector (Traffic Planning) Mahadev Gavade said: “We have recently sent a letter to the Municipal Commissioner seeking stern action against the hawkers who have put up their stalls on the footpath and in the middle of the walkway, which is exclusively meant for pedestrians. But it seems that they are simply turning a blind eye towards it.”

He said that the idea of a walkway was the brainchild of the PMC and now it was the one not implementing it properly by allowing stalls on the road.
“The letter sent to the Municipal Commissioner asks for stern action as this is the festival season and a lot of people flock to Laxmi Road for shopping,” he said. “The local police station, too, has enough powers to take action against the hawkers and can prosecute them in court by seizing their stalls and asking them to come to the court under the relevant sections of the Bombay Police Act.”

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Vishawas Pandhare said that they had been pressing the PMC to erect a permanent iron railing and had also asked it to remove the encroachment by shop owners on Laxmi Road. PMC ward officer, Vishrambaug Wada, Arun Khillare said : “We have been taking continuous action against the hawkers, but after the action, in half-an-hour they again start their business.

The fine for the hawker is only Rs 500. It is a very nominal amount and we have to give back all their material in a week. They also keep additional material, so after the action, in just half-an-hour, they again start their business. So to eradicate the problem of hawkers there should be a stringent policy. The amount of fine should be hiked to Rs 5,000 and the material should be seized permanently.

The Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation did this in the main market areas.” Additional city engineers, projects, Shriniwas Bonala said: “We have proposed the project of fabrication from City Post to Alka Talkies chowk costing 40 lakhs rupees. We are preparing a docket, which will be presented in the Standing Committee soon.” 

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