A WORKSHOP in Dhaka on Wednesday alleged that pedestrians and cyclists were given least priority in transport plans. A Work for Better Bangladesh Trust study shows that there is no footpath along 44 per cent of Dhaka roads, and about 82 per cent of Dhaka footpaths are in a bad shape and pedestrians face obstruction on about 65 per cent of the footpaths. The study finds no facilities for pedestrians on 97 per cent of roads. Government officials and rights activists say that pedestrians and cyclists should be given priority on roads and roads could be freed of congestion when roads and footpaths would be made accessible to all.
With inadequate footpaths, and many of them occupied by vendors, makeshift shops and even construction materials, Dhaka has already become a city unfriendly to pedestrians. Motorcyclists still drive on footpaths, especially along the roads facing severe traffic congestion. All this takes place under the nose of the authorities concerned who are to keep footpaths free for pedestrians. About 80 per cent of the city buildings have been constructed in breach of approved plans which are found to occupy a sizeable portion of footpaths. Because of footpaths being occupied for other purposes, pedestrians on most occasions have to walk on roads at the risk of being hit or run over by vehicles. According to the Clean Air and Sustainable Environment Project, around 72 per cent of the people killed in road accidents were pedestrians. Although the Dhaka city authorities conducted drives to free footpaths of illegal occupation, asking people to remove their makeshift shops and remove illegal constructions heaped on the footpaths, the action did not ensure any sustainable development. The steps that the government has so far taken are often weak-kneed and irresolute. The government’s ineptitude, if not indifference, has precipitated this sorry state of roads that have become unfriendly to pedestrians.
The government must, therefore need to set its priority aright as to what kind of roads they want. The government must make facilities for pedestrians and cyclists a priority agenda and work out a guideline on the issue so that movement on the road could be safe, the risk of traffic accidents could be reduced and the environment could be kept in a better share.
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