City footpaths multiply challenge 

Rashad Ahamad | Published: 00:00, Jul 24,2019


A sidewalk prepared for movement of physically challenged people has been made unusable by putting up metal poles to deter motorcycles. This photo was taken at Ramna in Dhaka on Tuesday. — Sourav Lasker

The physically challenged people cannot use the footpaths made useable for them by both city corporations in Dhaka due to the barriers set up for stopping errant motorcyclists.

The police said that they placed the barriers as motorcyclists plied on the footpaths creating risks of accidents and as common people couldn’t safely use them for such motorcyclists.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s additional commissioner (traffic) Mofiz Uddin  Ahmed said that the police were compelled to put the steel poles on the walkways to check the movement of motorbikes on them.

In defence of the barriers, he said that footpaths had at one stage turned unusable for the general people and physically challenged people were also not seen to use them.

He viewed that motorcycles would dominate the footpaths if they withdrew the poles from there.

‘The police did not ask for our opinion before setting up the barriers on the footpaths though it is we who develop and maintain them,’ said Dhaka South City Corporation chief executive officer Mostafizur Rahman.

He said that they were in the process of making the city pavements more friendly for the physically challenged people.

According to Bangladesh Bureau statistics, there are more than 16 million disabled people in Bangladesh, who are some 10 per cent of the country’s total population.

Physically challenged people, when asked, said that due to the barriers they were forced to move onto the busy roads with traffic amid high risks of accident.

They further said that such constraints on their movement discourage them to get involved in outdoor activities.

Beside this problem (barriers), risky and difficult crossing and interrupted connections between the footpaths, too, discourage them in getting out and living a more active life.

Officials of both Dhaka city corporations said that they had recently set tactile tiles on more than 100 kilometres of footpaths of the total 700 km in the city that had a 23,000 km of road network.

Bangladesh Wheelchair Cricket Team captain Mohammad Mohasin said that if there were opportunities for the challenged people they would have certainly used them and their participation in outdoor activities would have increased.

He revealed that he had travelled four km of footpath in Nepal in his wheelchair at a stretch without any push or trouble but he could not move merely 400 metres in Dhaka without any interruption.

Mohasin, who works for the rights of the people with disabilities, said that not only on the footpaths but the people with disabilities also suffer in the public transports, on the roads and at other open places as they were not designed taking into account their needs.

Jahangirnagar University’s urban planning professor Akter Mahmud said that a city should be integrated where everyone despite their physical, age and gender identity has the equal right to enjoy the city services.

‘Until we can ensure uninterrupted movement for the disabled persons from their home to the public places their participation won’t increase in outdoor activities,’ he said.

He said that in all policies the government was committed to ensuring all services for the physically challenged people but no facility was in place for them.

Programme manager of the NGO ‘Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust’ Maruf Hossain, whose organisation campaigns for building inclusive cities, said that setting tactile tiles was the start of a good practice but blocking them (with barriers) demonstrated the neglect to the physically challenged people.

‘There are many ways to control the motorcyclists on the footpaths without setting up barriers on them,’ he said.

He viewed that although the city corporations have made some lengths of footpaths usable for the physically challenged people but a lot of steps still remained to be implemented for them.

He further said that installation of zebra crossings instead of footbridges was important so that visually impaired and wheelchair users could move freely.

He emphasised the need for an uninterrupted network of wide footpaths across the city with basic facilities like drinking water and toilets for all (including the physically challenged people).

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