There's space for everyone on Mumbai's footpaths, except pedestrians
In the first part of a campaign to reclaim Mumbai's footpaths for pedestrians, mid-day reporters visit several parts of the city only to find the sidewalks taken over by vehicles, shop owners and hawkers
Mumbaikars fought BMC's ambitious hawking and parking policies tooth and nail to ensure that their lives are not adversely affected, but their vote seems to have been mistaken as one for the status quo.
Now, with both the policies on the backburner and the city's footpaths overtaken by everyone except the people they were meant for, the pedestrians - arguably the most neglected section of citizens - will have to resign themselves once again to dodging traffic on the roads this monsoon.
Around 5 lakh vehicles have been added to the city in the past three years, burdening the city's footpaths as much as the roads, as the vehicles are seen parked on the footpaths while people are forced to walk on the road. Some of the reasons for vehicles being parked on the roads in the city are the lack of adequate free and pay-and-park facilities, the fact that several buildings lack parking slots and that many residents cannot afford slots in the ones that do.
The low frequency of buses and the increased bus and rickshaw fares have also forced many citizens to take their two-wheelers to the railway stations and park them there before embarking on the second leg of the commute. They end up parking the two-wheelers on the footpath because there are no parking lots outside most stations.
New and second-hand vehicle sellers also clog up the city’s footpaths by parking the vehicles in the area in front of their shops. Hawkers are the other notable culprits, as are contractors and construction crews, many of whom have delayed the re-laying of footpaths, ensuring that they'll remain incomplete before the monsoon hits. mid-day visited some of the locations in the city where the footpaths are dying a slow death despite the BMC spending crores on their ‘upkeep’.
In most of the places we visited in the western suburbs, we found that the footpaths were occupied not by the vehicles of residents of societies in the area, but by used car dealers. Large patches of the footpath on the arterial New Link Road between Goregaon and Malad, for instance, are being used for this purpose.
Auto Alliance, Somvar Bazaar Road, Malad
Around 12 cars were parked on the road and more than 10 were parked on the footpath, occupying more than 20 feet of it. We saw pedestrians, including school-going children and the elderly, being forced to walk on the road. No one from the car dealership was willing to speak on the issue.
Opposite Oshiwara Depot, New Link Road
A second-hand bike dealer has blocked the footpath by parking at least 10 of his vehicles there. The area adjacent to the footpath on the northbound stretch also has illegal parking. Thus, not only do pedestrians have to risk their lives by walking on the busy road, their movement also hinders traffic. A traffic policeman was standing barely 200 metres away from the spot, but he seemed to turn a blind eye to the illegal parking.
Opposite Rekhatai P Mhatre Junior College of Science, Oshiwara
While one side of the road has a footpath, which is unobstructed, the footpath on the other side had been demolished a year ago while some work was on and was not reconstructed. The area meant for the footpath has now been taken over for parking. Around eight to ten cars were parked in the space meant for pedestrians.
Reliable Carz, New Link Road, Goregaon
A car dealer has used a portion of footpath on the southbound stretch to park his vehicles. More than ten cars were parked on the road and close to the same number were parked on the footpath. Locals say that the vehicles that are parked on the road illegally are sometimes towed, but they reappear soon enough.
Elite Motors, Malad
When mid-day visited the spot, we found that more than 30 feet of the footpath was being used to park four-wheelers. More than 10 vehicles were parked in such a way that even spotting the footpath underneath was a task.
Since there is no parking space available and the width of the footpath is more, we sometimes park cars on it. If the traffic department and BMC ask us not to park the vehicles there, we will obey their orders. - Rizwan Khan, works with Reliable Carz
Footpaths are made so that pedestrians can have a safe and hassle-free walk, but it is sad to see that the authorities have failed to keep a check on the illegal parking that takes place there. I understand that there is a space crunch and people don't have enough places to park, but that does not mean that they can take over the footpaths. Used car dealers on the Link Road near Bangur Nagar in Goregaon West are some of the biggest culprits. - D Bhatia, local resident
The number of vehicles that have been added to the city’s roads in the past three years
mid-day visited several locations in Ghatkopar, Bhandup, Vikhroli and Mulund and found two-wheelers and four-wheelers parked on long stretches of the footpath, with the remaining space taken over by vegetable and fruit vendors and other hawkers.
CGS road, close to Ghatkopar station
A huge stretch of the footpath has been converted into a makeshift furniture mall. The vendors have been selling furniture in the area for more than 30 years and claim that the BMC officials take bribes from them.
I have been doing business in the area for 30-35 years. We are originally from Osmanabad. The police never ask for a bribe but we are expected to give 'chai-paani'. The BMC workers charge Rs 1,000-2,000 whenever there is a raid. Sometimes the raids are held in quick succession and sometimes there is a gap between two raids. - Achyut Bodhare, furniture seller
The BMC workers take at least Rs 5,000 from us for not confiscating our goods. - Samina Shaikh, another seller
LBS Marg, near Cipla, Vikhroli West
Several auto rickshaws were found parked on the footpath.
We park our vehicles here every day, especially overnight, as the footpath and roads are wide. No action is taken against us as we pay local police officials for parking our vehicles. - An auto driver
LBS Marg, Mulund
The area close to the Vasant Oscar residential complex in Mulund, near Nirmal Lifestyle, sees rampant illegal parking. When mid-day visited the spot, we saw that two-wheelers belonging to commercial outlets such as Domino's Pizza were parked on the footpath along with other two-wheelers. The outlet is just at the entrance of the residential complex. A few private two wheelers were also parked on the footpath.
At times, delivering the product in a rush makes some of our delivery boys park the bikes on the footpaths. We have been fined for this by the BMC. - A Domino's official
Sardar Pratap Singh Industrial Estate, Bhandup
The area is filled with small-scale industrial plants and mechanical shops. Cars, two wheelers and auto rickshaws are parked near and on the footpaths, forcing people to walk on the road.
Outside Ghatkopar station
The road immediately outside Ghatkopar station on the western side is lined with hawkers on both sides. Some people have also set up shop under the Metro bridge. We are never questioned by the BMC. I have a licence, but we fear the Metro authorities will make us relocate. - Ranjana Awhad, shopkeeper
Sonapur junction, near Nirmal Lifestyle
Trucks were parked on the footpath opposite plywood and steel shops, forcing people to walk on the busy road and risk their lives.
Trucks and tempos have encroached the area outside our shops. During the day, only a few trucks are parked here. At night, however, the entire stretch is taken over by taxis, trucks and private buses. - Jitendra Shah, paint shop owner
Surya Nagar, Vikhroli West
When mid-day visited the spot, we found that mini tempos and private vehicles had encroached on a significant chunk of the footpath on LBS Marg.
The tempos are parked here the whole day and no one takes action against them. More vehicles are parked when it gets dark. The footpath outside our complex is taken over by auto rickshaws and private commercial vehicles. - Bhikaji Satle, security guard at a residential complex
Dadar is one of the busiest areas in the city and the area around the station sees very heavy footfalls. Both the eastern and western side of the station are choc-a-bloc with vendors and food stall owners. The footpaths right outside the station are in a terrible state and illegal parking on the arterial roads is rampant.
Naigaon Road, Dadar West
Four to five two-wheelers were found parked on the footpath outside a private bank on the road.
These vehicles belong to the bank workers. They park their vehicles here and go to work nearby. They know it is illegal. - Issaq Shaikh, owns a shop nearby
A similar situation was seen outside the station at Dadar East where 8-10 two wheelers were found parked on a 500-metre stretch of the footpath. When he was asked why the BMC does not clear up the footpath, a shopkeeper said, “paisa feko, tamasha dekho.”
These vehicles belong neither to us nor to the residents of these buildings. They belong to people who park here before heading to the station. - Rajesh Jain, shopkeeper
I walk from Dadar station every day and I wonder where the footpaths in this area are. I fear I'll be hit by a moving vehicle some day because I am forced to walk on the road. - Shraddha Pandey, commuter
I travel from Dadar to Kurla every day. These hawkers come back just a few days after the BMC carries out a drive. There is no end to the illegal parking problem either. - Sanjay Khandare, commuter
Jehangir Boman Behram Marg, near Mumbai Central station
Several domestic LPG cylinders from Bharat Gas were placed along the footpath, close to the station. A truck was parked on the road and about 20 cylinders were kept on the footpath.
We use this space because we have no other option. We don't have permission from the BMC and sometimes, during raids, we face problems. But we use the footpath because our work only takes 30-60 minutes. As soon as we are done unloading/loading, the cylinders are removed. - Swati Shenwai, an attendant from Bharat Gas
Outside Hotel Arabia, Jehangir Boman Behram Marg
A number of two wheelers, most of them belonging to patrons of the restaurant, are parked here throughout the day.
People keep parking here because there is no parking lot near the restaurant. The traffic police never check.
- Kalba Hassan, owns a paan stall nearby
Milind Bharambe Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic)
Yes, it is our responsibility. But controlling parking on footpaths is challenging because there are several buildings in the city which don’t have a parking facility. That has to be tackled. Besides, we have already started a drive on SV Road and Link Road in the North and Eastern parts of the city where some arterial roads have been taken over by garages or second-hand car dealers. We will free up such roads for traffic and also remove the encroaching vehicles.
J K Kharat, ACP (Traffic), western region
We only crack down on vehicles parked on the road. Footpaths are not under our jurisdiction and we can't remove the vehicles there since they are not an obstacle to moving traffic. So, primarily, it is the BMC’s responsibility to clear footpaths.
J B Patel, deputy chief engineer, BMC's traffic department
Actually, it is the traffic police’s responsibility to clear footpaths because pedestrians are also part of traffic. It is not the BMC’s responsibility to tow vehicles. We don’t have the resources to do so. We had built ramps on footpaths to facilitate movement of the physically challenged, but those are being misused by motorists. What do we do then?
Punjabrao Ugale, DCP (Traffic), Eastern Suburbs
We will investigate the matter and take necessary steps.
V N Jadhav Additional Commissioner (Traffic)
Primarily, it is the BMC’s responsibility since illegal parking on footpaths does not hamper vehicular traffic. But, if they ask for our help, we can help with towing. Jadhav also extended support to mid-day’s campaign, saying that the traffic police can crack down on illegal parking if a list of locations is shared with them.
Ashok Pawar, Chief engineer, BMC Roads and Traffic dept)
The BMC has no mechanism for towing away vehicles from footpaths or roads. Therefore, it is the traffic police’s responsibility. All we can do is put up bollards. But if illegal parking takes place even then, traffic police should take action.
Additional Municipal Commissioner SVR Srinivas was unavailable for comment.
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