Streets for Life

Our life starts and ends on the streets. After our birth and discharge from hospital, we travel from hospital to home by street. After dying, from home to the crematory place, we travel by streets. After home and workplace, perhaps the street is the place where we spend most of our daily time.

Streets are an integral part of our life. Streets are the lifeline of mankind and indication of prosperity and mobility.

Streets are dynamic in India. They exhibit social life. We celebrate birthday events, play cricket, solemnize marriages, build religious places, hold political rallies and agitations, everything and anything on the streets.

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Streets are for walking too. Historically, streets are used by people for travelling from one place to another. Streets are public places to chat, enjoy and have fun. But with the advancement of automobiles and increasing number of vehicles on streets, it is becoming a death trap. In India, around 1,50,00 people die on the Indian streets.

Streets are largely occupied and dominated by cars. It is feared that 1 billion cars will be on the road by 2030 across the globe. Major space of the road is consumed by motorised vehicles posing a serious threat to vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists who occupy less space on the road. Cars represent the rich world. Pedestrians and cyclists represent marginalised communities.

India sanctions building highways, flyovers catering to the needs of cars not the people. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has been moving heaven and earth to set a target of highways construction in the country 37 km per day. The Ministry is boasting to set records by building 32 km per day and sought LIMCA record of book. Recent report suggests that Highway’s construction increased by 75% during April and May of the current fiscal year (2021-22) compared to the same period last year. Such achievements may be unprecedented and have no parallel in other countries in the World. This feat accomplished by our road designer and engineers, is recognised by the Limca Book of Records and the Golden Book of World Records.

But when do we understand that the more roads we build the more cars dominate the road? When do our policy makers, political representatives, bureaucrats, road engineers build people centric streets rather than car centric roads. ? When do we see footpaths and walkways for people to walk which is the primary use of the streets? Let’s pause and ask ourselves, are our streets safe ? How many innocent lives are we losing on the Indian streets ? Will it ever stop ?

I believe and assert, we should have children-oriented streets. Children are less disciplined, not able to conjecture the speed of vehicles and can’t navigate through streets as adults do. Therefore, if our children are safe on the streets, anyone can be safe on the streets.

Unsafe and inappropriate speed makes streets more dangerous. Speed hurts, injures, kills. But no one wants to name the elephant who is causing all the ruins on the streets. Overspeed causes 67% road crash fatalities in India.

 The 2020 Stockholm Declaration, adopted by governments worldwide, calls for a focus on liveable streets and, in line with available evidence, a maximum road travel speed of 30 km/h where vulnerable road users and vehicles mix. Commitment to this approach must be at the forefront of the new Decade of Action for Road Safety to achieve the Global Goals.

UN Global Road Safety week which was observed during 17th to 23 May 2021 was an opportunity to call for action to reduce speed limits on the streets. It was an urgent call to lower speed to save lives.

Now is the time to urgently deliver on this call to action by reducing, designing and enforcing traffic speeds that are safe for everyone, everywhere, prioritising low speed streets in all residential areas and near schools for our children, youth, senior citizens, disabled people.

Cars have robbed street life. It is time to give the streets back to people. It’s time to make streets for everyone and make streets safe by lowering speed limits for everyone. We must never forget one thing, streets belong to people. We need streets where we can walk, run, play, enjoy, travel and live with dignity and freedom.

Let’s make our streets lifeworthy so that we can breathe.


- Sandeep Gaikwad, Senior Programme Associate, Parisar

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