mid-day campaign: Reclaim footpaths for pedestrians
mid-day campaign >> Launching our series on the current explosion of vehicles in the city and how they are robbing pedestrians of vital space. First up: Powai-Mulund-Bhandup belt
Have you been crying over the lack of parking space in the city? From the looks of it, you'll soon get a giant parking lot - the entire city, choked with vehicles such that there is no space to move. If you think that's far-fetched, take a look at some numbers - 700 new vehicles are added to Mumbai's 2,000 km of roads every single day, and the latest Regional Transport Office (RTO) data reveals that city's vehicular population shot up by 50 per cent over the last five years.
The numbers are skyrocketing - traffic density has gone up from 1,050 vehicles per km to 1,650 - and we have no space to accommodate them all. Enough said?
Haphazardly parked cars block footpaths in Mulund East. Bikes on a footpath on LBS Marg in Mulund West; haphazardly parked cars block footpaths in Mulund East. Pics/Sameer Markande
A senior RTO official said that as per the latest statistics about 2.9 lakh vehicles were registered in Mumbai in 2017-18. Thane isn't any better either with a total vehicle count of about 38.31 lakh, of which 3.57 lakh were registered in 2017-18.
Elevated stack parking and multi-storeyed parking lots are in place, and yet, the eyesore of a huge number of vehicles parked haphazardly on footpaths and in pedestrian zones remains.
After losing space to encroachment, hawkers, illegal shop extensions and utilities, pedestrians are now losing their walkways, as footpaths are turning into parking spaces.
mid-day went for a walk to see for itself how footpaths in Mumbai, its suburbs and even Thane and Navi Mumbai have been occupied by vehicles, parked vertically, horizontally and sideways. Our reporters found that no areas, neither outside busy hospitals, residential or commercial colonies or even crowded hubs, were spared the horror of illegal parking.
We kick off the series with Powai, Mulund and Bhandup - among the most populated areas with an eclectic mix of commercial, residential, industrial and market areas.
There is rampant violation in both east and west sides of this populated suburb. Starting from the road outside the station in the west to LBS Marg, and along the stretches of Eastern Express Highway in the east to Mithagar Road inside, the culprits are two-wheelers and autorickshaws. "In the east, auto drivers use footpaths for parking," said Salil Arora, a resident. When mid-day visited the site, we not only found plying autorickshaws parked on the pavement, but also broken down ones lying idle there.
Bikes parked on a footpath in Powai
The Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road (JVLR) is one of the newly developed key east-west arterial roads with proper sidewalks and wide, multi-lane roads. But, there's also improper parking, right from Gandhi Nagar, IIT and beyond - two-wheelers horizontally parked on footpaths along with mechanic shops near IIT.
A two-wheeler parked haphazardly on a footpath at JVLR
Also, private tourist vehicles were found parked along the Holy Trinity Church stretch and towards the Eastern Express Highway junction. "Here, many marble dealers along the stretch and their customers park their two-wheelers on the footpaths; sometimes, you'll find four-wheelers, too. And, all this, despite there being parking space under the JVLR," said Nishikant Kamath, a commuter.
This motorist seems oblivious to pedestrians' problems, or rights, parking a huge car right on the footpath near Bhandup railway station
The arterial LBS Marg has become much narrower thanks to the ongoing work on Metro IV. Mercifully though, footpaths along the stretch are relatively free, barring a car showroom and the Metro Mall, where one can find two-wheelers parked right on the footpaths.
Bikes parked on the footpath outside Corporate Park on LBS Marg, Bhandup
"The smaller stretches here do not matter that much in the scheme of things. They do not obstruct residents' movement. Sometimes, there is parking along the footpath near Huma Adlabs," said Rishika Salge, who works near Kanjurmarg.
'Recently, the footpath width was increased. We pedestrians were overjoyed only to have the walking space snatched away from us by two-wheelers using it as a parking space. Now, we again don't have space to walk on, and with Metro work causing heavy traffic on the road, it's not safe for us to walk on the street either'
Aarti Mayekar, a resident
'Police personnel themselves let vehicles involved in accidents and seized vehicles rust away on footpaths, leaving little or no space for pedestrians. What can we do when law enforcement agencies themselves treat us like this?'
Nisha Kunju, secretary (Bhandup), Amma Care Foundation
'I think we need a parking authority for Mumbai on the lines of London. Today, parking on footpaths is nobody's responsibility. The traffic police only remove vehicles that affect the traffic flow, and don't give a thought to pedestrian movement. The BMC, too, does not consider parked vehicles on footpaths as its responsibility'
Ajit Shenoy, transport expert
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