While the Punjab government has continuously failed in providing basic amenities to the city’s residents, it has also persistently ignored the rights of pedestrians in the provincial capital, Pakistan Today has observed.
Walking on foot on roads in the city, the first thing one notices is that the footpaths are either non-existent or have been encroached upon by big and small businesses. During day time when cars, motorcycles and other vehicles crowd the sides of the roads, you can often find yourself walking in the middle of the road with an eye on the fast approaching traffic.
Many a time, footpaths are blocked with barriers installed by law enforcement forces.
The Punjab government which often makes tall claims of developing the city along modern lines, while it is constructing many mega projects in the city costing many hundreds of billions of rupees appears to be doing all of it for motorists or the elite class of the country. The pedestrians who will otherwise benefit very little from these mega projects are being made to risk life and limb just to walk on the road.
IGNORING PEDESTRIAN RIGHTS, LEFT RIGHT AND CENTRE:
Crossing roads at any place in the city is a challenging task for the pedestrians. Even at the recently completed signal free mega project in Lahore, the pedestrian rights were completely ignored during construction.
Majeed, a 15 years old tea boy who has to cross the Jail Road many times during the day to deliver tea, said while talking to Pakistan Today that he had had some near misses with fast moving cars. He said that he has no option but to cross the road as his livelihood depends on it.
Ferozepur Road is another busy road in Lahore which has been declared a ‘signal free road’, but here too pedestrians are made to suffer as there are very few overhead bridges. Most of the time, you have to walk a kilometer just to get to a bridge to cross the road.
Many lives have been claimed on the roads in Lahore due to lack of road safety awareness and pressure of traffic on the roads.
LAW ‘ENCROACHMENT’ FORCES:
Mall Road, one of the busiest roads in the city, is not very welcoming to the pedestrians either as walkways on various points including Alhamra , WAPDA House, CM House, Pearl Continental Hotel, CM Secretariat and Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Office have been taken over by authorities for security purposes.
It is very hard for pedestrians to walk for one kilometer on this road. The road has one overhead bridge for pedestrians near Panorama Center. Motors parked on service lanes also add to the problems of the pedestrians.
If somewhere foot paths are present alongside the roads for pedestrians, these barely qualify as walkways. Electric poles in the middle of the footpaths are a common sight in Lahore. Many vendors have set up tea stalls, juice corners and toys shops on the footpaths; many are home to overflowing gutters. Sometimes the gutters and the tea stalls overlap, creating a special kind of hell for everyone not on a vehicle.
Since many development projects are being worked on in the city, the vulnerability of pedestrians has increased due to excessive rush on the roads. To make matters worse, the signals on the roads can often be seen broken.
MAKE NO MISTAKE, THE DRIVERS ARE THE WORST TOO:
On the roads in Lahore, there is not at single point where there pedestrians have been especially facilitated let alone a separate walkway for those on foot and on bicycles like the many Western countries the CM wants to emulate. Zebra Crossing which is supposed to be spared for the pedestrians is shown absolutely no regard by the drivers in the city.
First, many of the zebra crossing signs are missing near the signals. It is the prime responsibility of the traffic police officials to maintain the zebra crossing for the pedestrians but they may not be the only ones to blame in this particular situation.
When traffic is stopped on a signal, it is supposed to remain behind the line which separates the Zebra Crossing from the normal road. However, the drivers do not remain behind the line. In anticipation of the signal turning green, they keep inching forward until they are occupying the Zebra Crossing and they still do not stop. More often than not, by the time the signal turns green, the vehicles at the front have already reached the middle of the road. If you are a pedestrian looking for a Zebra Crossing, you have to practically run in the middle of the road, in front of traffic, which at this point seems like a bull trying to break its leash and charge into the bullpen. Good luck.
Rafay Alam, a renowned lawyer while talking to Pakistan Today said that freedom of movement is the basic right of every citizen in a free country and according to article 15 of the constitution no citizen can be deprived of this basic right. He said that if the government does not construct a footpath or allows it to get blocked through encroachment, it is in effect violating the rights of pedestrians.
Rafay criticised the government as it cared only for the rights of the motorists and not of the pedestrians.
Another lawyer, Azhar Siddique, told Pakistan Today that the government itself is involved in violating the fundamental rights of pedestrians. He said the government is busy in demolishing footpaths in a bid to widen the roads.
“Article 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 25 and 38 of constitution deal with fundamental rights of citizens which also cover the rights of pedestrians,” he said, adding that providing rights to the pedestrians is not a priority for the government.
An official in LDA said on condition of anonymity that LDA is responsible for constructing footpaths alongside roads. However, he said, it is impossible to facilitate pedestrians at all points of the roads and the LDA simply constructs footpaths where it feels they’re necessary.
“Many footpaths in the city have been encroached upon,” he said and added, “It is the duty of the concerned town office to maintain them for pedestrians.” He said that the City District Government is also responsible for maintaining footpaths in the city.