There was a time when I used walk extensively- from my college to the office and home and to almost everywhere else. I remember always looking forward to those walks to reflect, think and relax. I am nostalgic about those times in my favourite city – Mumbai.
But, have you had a ;look at our streets recently? Have you seen how many people walk on the road as compared to the footpath? Look closely, no one actually seems to be walking on the footpaths- A majority are literally in the middle of the roads.
Over the years – we have managed to drive pedestrians out of the pedestrian-ways – first came the informal vendors, at one point municipalities started building toilets in middle of the footpaths, then there were milk booths and more squatters. To top it all, neighbouring societies started putting repulsive flowerbed on the ground so as to get rid of all of the above. Even as the footpaths of the older part of our cities have dilapidated, they have disappeared in the newer part of our cities!
The departure of the institution of walkability in our cities is one of the fundamental refection of the complete failure of our cities. Think about it – the great cities of the world are all by nature essentially great places to walk. Walkability is the most critical element of a good city. Creating walkable cities is a great way to address the environmental crisis of our era. Also, more people on the streets mean a more superior opportunity for social interaction and thus an excellent way to create a socially inclusive community. A walkable city will also add to the aesthetic, sense of character and vibrancy of a city. So at this point in time, as we try to address the challenges of our urban centres, it’s critical that we address and invest time in enhancing the pedestrian culture of our cities.