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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Walk the talk

Update : 21 Jan 2016, 06:34 PM

Our beloved capital city is considered one of the most unliveable cities in the world. Undoubtedly, the horrendous traffic congestion is one of the main reasons for the degrading quality of life, and the city being so difficult.

Road transportation is the main mode of getting around in Dhaka. The available road space is inadequate to serve the demand, which is one of the main reasons for the traffic congestion. Illegal on-street parking is common in many places throughout the city. This reduces road space, worsening the city’s traffic further.

To improve the traffic situation, Mayor Annisul Haque has already removed illegal on-street parking in Tejgoan and Gabtoli. Removing illegal on-street parking from the roads in Tejgoan and Gabtoli area have reduced traffic congestion in those two areas as it has increased the capacity of the roadway, thereby improving traffic flow.

Residents of Dhaka have praised the mayor for taking this bold step of removing illegal on-street parking. However, besides improving the traffic flow, another important task that needs to be conducted is the creation of a pedestrian-friendly environment in the city. More than 20% of the people in Dhaka commute by walking. Besides walking for travel, many walk to exercise, but the city continues to lack a pedestrian-friendly environment.

Many of the city’s sidewalks are occupied by illegal makeshift shops, vendors, extension of shops adjacent to the sidewalk, shelters for the homeless, the city corporation’s garbage bins, construction materials and equipment, and parked vehicles. Motorcyclists are often seen to be riding on the sidewalk. Due to a lack of maintenance, the conditions in which we find the pavements in many parts of the city’s sidewalks are quite horrifying indeed.

Most of the city’s foot-over-bridges are also occupied by vendors, homeless people, and drug-addicts. Due to a lack of maintenance, many of the foot-over-bridges are in poor condition.

As a result of the poor walking environment on the sidewalk and on the foot-over bridges, pedestrians are often forced to walk on the road space and jaywalk, running the risk of getting hit or run over.

A pedestrian-friendly environment is one of the key requirements of a liveable city. This is why many cities around the world are now constructing a continuous network of spacious sidewalks, walking trails, and safe and comfortable road crossing facilities.

In many properly functioning cities, landscaping is provided between the sidewalk and the road space, which not only works as a buffer between pedestrians and vehicles on the road, but also beautifies the city and creates a soothing atmosphere. This has encouraged people to commute by walking instead of commuting by motorised transport, thereby improving air quality and the overall traffic situation.

Due to the density and various developments of Dhaka, many of the daily trips are within walking distance, but due to the unsafe walking environment, many people often ride rickshaws or other inefficient modes of transport to travel to such locations, which unnecessarily puts pressure on the roads.

Providing a pedestrian-friendly environment by removing illegal settlements from the sidewalks and the foot-over-bridges, preventing illegal parking on the sidewalks, preventing motorcycles from riding on the sidewalk, improving the pavement condition, and regularly maintaining the sidewalks and foot-over-bridges will encourage many more people to walk, which will reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, and most importantly, enhance the liveability of the city, making it more trendy and modern.

As many people’s livelihoods are directly or indirectly dependent on the illegal makeshift shops on the sidewalks, rather than simply evicting these shops, the city authority may provide these shop-owners space to rent in existing markets or build new markets and provide these shop-owners with spaces to rent. This way, the shop-owners will be able to do business legally, the city authority will get additional revenue, but most importantly, the pedestrian space will not be occupied illegally. 

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