‘Kerb’ the menace: Get bikers off footpaths!

Deccan Chronicle.  | Nikhil Gangadhar

Nation, Current Affairs

The traffic police have been penalising violators for riding on the footpath and later, began registering FIRs against them.

With overcrowded roads and a rise in vehicular population, efforts by traffic police to curb the menace have gone in vain.

Well-maintained pavements are a rarity in Bengaluru and the few that do exist have been taken over by motorists. Footpath riding is a growing menace that both police and citizens have tried to curb. Still, the number of violations is on the rise, with 18,889 cases in 2017, 26,324 cases in 2018 and 9947 cases registered until June 2019. Pedestrians who try to appeal to motorists receive verbal abuse and threats in return. With overcrowded roads and a rise in vehicular population, efforts by traffic police to curb the menace have gone in vain. They  are now roping in shopkeepers and building owners to provide CCTV footage of the pavement to help book offenders and FIRs will be registered against those who intimidate pedestrians. Others suggest the temporary seizure of vehicles, reports Nikhil Gangadhar

Motorists on bikes taking over footpaths are among Bengaluru’s biggest pet peeves, one that the Traffic police have tried hard to curb through a number of stringent rules. Despite their efforts, however, the city has only seen a gradual rise in the number of footpath riders.  Pedestrians, who have also tried to stop the menace, are giving up hope, tired of complaining, both on social media and to traffic police personnel on ground.

The traffic police have been penalising violators for riding on the footpath and later, began registering FIRs against them. Still, motorists continue to flout the rule, and do so quite blatantly. The situation has worsened, with a recent spate of complaints from pedestrians who say that when they try to stop motorists from riding on the footpaths, they are threatened in return.

Roping in shopkeepers and other establishments that have CCTVs installed outside was the next move by the police. According to a senior police officer, “These shops and establishments are located next to the footpath and have at least one CCTV facing the road and footpath. They also have the recordings saved. We will collect these and start penalising offenders. We have tried numerous methods but none have been fully effective. Now, we will try this one and see how far it takes us in curbing footpath riding.”

The officer acknowledged that pedestrians who confront motorists are being verbally abused and threatened, saying, “We request them to call the emergency control room immediately and also to try making note of the vehicle’s registration number. We will make sure that a criminal case is filed against the offender.” The officer also says that pedestrians should not budge or give way when they hear motorists honking at them from behind on a pavement. Footpaths, he says, are for pedestrians, not the bikers.

Another senior police officer from the traffic department says that most commuters are impatient. “We have observed that most traffic violations are caused because motorists tend to be rash and impatient. Riding on pavements is a result of this. If they wait two minutes longer, they don’t need to get on to the footpath. But they want to be ahead of the rest, even if that means encroaching space meant for pedestrians. They want to reach their destinations on time but I think for this, they need to learn time management. Of course there will be traffic along their route, so they need to make sure they leave on time, instead of leaving late and inconveniencing everyone around them. If these simple values are inculcated in the average motorist, traffic discipline will fall into place, too.”

Meanwhile, Mr Harishekara, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) has hinted at a massive drive against footpath riding in the coming days. He says, “We are aware of the menace and are planning to carry out a drive. There are also discussions on implementing stricter rules against this violation.”

According to the statistics obtained from the City traffic police department, 9947 cases have been registered against footpath riding from January to June 2019. Around 26,324 cases were booked in 2018 and 18,889 cases in 2017. Clearly, there is a gradual rise in the number of offenders,  strict rules by the police notwithstanding.

Bollards on pavements help, say pedestrians
With overcrowded roads and a rise in vehicular population, efforts by traffic police to curb the menace have gone in vain.Bengaluru’s pedestrians are a neglected lot and rarely have their way.  Pavements are generally in bad condition and in some areas, they don’t exist at all. So, when the few pavements that pedestrians can actually use are taken over by people on bikes, it’s bound to cause some angst. Our pavements are plagued with problems, many are broken and hazardous to use, others are occupied by street vendors or used as parking space.  These days, people are afraid to ask motorists not to ride or park on footpaths, for these motorists are aggressive and the average person fears the repercussions of speaking out. Pedestrians do, however, want to reclaim their space and insist that the traffic police come down heavily against this menace.

The placement of bollards on footpaths has acted as an effective deterrent but this has not been implemented across the city. Pedestrians appreciate the bollards, which stop motorists from getting too far, should they persist in their efforts to fast track their journeys via the pavements. They also want stricter punishments against people who ride on footpaths and feel their vehicles should be seized for a week, which is likely to teach them a harsh lesson.

Delivery executives from various services are often the ones violating the law and often ride on the pavement just to ensure they reach their destinations on time.

Aradhana Sen, a techie and a resident of Indiranagar, says, “The traffic police placed the bollards on the footpaths on 100 feet road and it actually worked.  It would be good if the police also took into account people in wheelchairs, however, when they place the bollards. I request them to implement this measure across the city, especially in areas where pedestrian movement is high.”

She also suggested that traffic police personnel carry out drives in plainclothes. “Most of the time, when motorists spot a traffic cop nearby, they get off the pavement quickly. It would be good if policemen in civil clothes stand near footpaths to nab motorists flouting the law. It will also create a sense of fear among them, they will think twice about riding on a footpath if there is a likely to be a cop in civil clothes in the vicinity!”

Meanwhile, a few pedestrians have pointed out that they are scared to confront people riding on the footpath. Manoj Kumar, a resident of Wilson Garden and engineering student once stopped a biker from riding on the footpath but was threatened. “I was walking on the footpath, as it was peak hour traffic, two men on a bike came up from behind me on the footpath. They honked incessantly, but I didn’t move. When the honking continued, I asked them to get off the footpath. But they threatened to thrash me instead and nobody from the public came forward to support me.”

He added that until people change themselves, no rule can help to enforce discipline in society. “We should change and then everything will have a meaning when implemented. All these rules laid down by the traffic police are only effective when the cops are around to personally ensure they are being followed.”