CAMPAIGN A city-based group begins work on making roads more accessible to pedestrians and the differently abled. PARMOMITA PAIN
At the best of times crossing Chennai streets can be a nightmare. Usually overcrowed with unexplained one-ways, motorists are left with no way of giving pedestrians the right of way. When you next manage to cross over safely (say the Chintamani Junction or Nugambakkam High Road) spare a thought for the disabled who have to negotiate these treacherous terrains without the advantages you have at your disposal.
Chennai’s roads require a radical re-orientation to become more accessible to those who use public transport, pedestrians and the disabled, say a group of volunteers who have initiated a process to look into such concerns. Titled “Walking Classes Unite”, they recently joined the Spastics Society of Tamil Nadu in a pedestrian access audit of the road from the Thiruvanmiyur MRTS to the Spastics Society campus on Taramani Road during peak hour traffic. They aim to reclaim public space for mobility, accessibility and basic livelihood needs of common people and seeks to bring together workers from the unorganised sector, differently-abled persons, students and the elderly to articulate a vision for road and traffic planning in Chennai.
More than a 100 people, including Spastics Society students and their caretakers, fish hawkers from Nochhikuppam, college students and school teachers joined the audit walk to express their support for a pedestrian-friendly city.
“I am orthopaedically challenged. I use crutches. The uneven pavements make it very difficult or me to walk. It must be a nightmare for those using callipers since callipers can’t be bent. The lack of proper parking facilities makes things doubly difficult,” says Dilli Babu, who runs his own consultancy.
Indiscriminate use of one-way traffic, road widening and flyovers have come at the cost of usable pavements and the convenience of pedestrians, forcing many to use more expensive, risky and environmentally destructive modes of transport.
Annie Shyam, Director, Spastics Society of Tamil Nadu, says, “Generally all pedestrians have a problem on roads. It’s just that these problems are five times magnified for those with disabilities. Most of our children take the train to Thiruvanmiyur. There is no bus stop on that side of Tidel Park road. Now parents have to carry their children across to reach the institution. We would like to help the government come out with a plan with good side walks and zebra crossings with buzzers to help the blind.”
Not just roads, even drivers and conductors of publics buses require a through sensitisation programme. Meenakshi, a visually impaired resident of YWCA, says, “Drivers must be taught to be patient and not drive off while a blind person is boarding. Besides the footboards are so high that it’s impossible for those on crutches to climb safely.”
Everyone has an equal right to our city’s roads. Let’s work for a ‘road friendlier’ tomorrow. Similar audits of pedestrian facilities and conditions are planned across the city. For more information, contact: T. Venkat: 9884706531.
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