RSS NEWS COMMENTARY: Pedestrian safety: a major concern

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-Pritam Bhattarai
KATHMANDU–Road safety continues to remain a major concern in Nepal, where hundreds of people lose their lives, and many others are injured every year.

Pathetic road condition, reckless driving, and carrying passengers beyond capacity, among others are often to blame for road accidents.

Here in the capital city, the scenario is a bit different. Initiatives taken by traffic police in a bid to minimize road accidents is praiseworthy and laudable. Crackdown on drunk-driving is one of them, which traffic police claim to have significantly lowered the number of road accidents.

Other traffic-related campaigns are also recognizable. Banning horns, taking stern action against haphazardly picking up and dropping passengers are good moves.

However, road safety for pedestrians is still a serious matter to take into account. Pashupati Thapa of Gaushala died in a road accident on July 10, 2017. A microbus knocked him down when he was crossing the road using a zebra crossing. He died of head injuries.

Likewise, one month ahead of the Thapa’s killing, Rabina Chaudhari, a school teacher, was killed after she was hit by a bus while using a zebra crossing in Basundhara. Similarly in May, Padam Raj Subedi, a retired government secretary, lost his life when he was hit by a two-wheeler while crossing a road using zebra crossing in Anamnagar.

Both pedestrians and drivers do not care about zebra crossings, maybe they are ignorant of them. Pedestrian crossing is a place on a road (in particular one where there is a lot of traffic), along which white and black lines are painted, and at which traffic must stop to allow pedestrians to cross the road.

In bigger cities with heavy traffic and wider roads, using zebra crossings is required in line with traffic lights, as it is not always possible to stop traffic every time a pedestrian is to use zebra crossing to walk across. However, our city does not have traffic lights. It seems the government is not bothered to repair already installed traffic lights, or set up new ones.

As a result, pedestrians are forced to device their own traffic rules. They have to make hand gestures to stop speeding vehicles while using zebra crossings to cross the road. Even then they do not feel safe, fearing that a speeding vehicle may hit them while using crosswalks, as pedestrians complain that drivers often do not stop despite seeing people using pedestrian crossings.

Manoj Rijal, a master degree’s student, does not feel a sense of safety while using zebra crossings to cross the road. “It feels that speeding vehicles will knock me down while using zebra crossings. Drivers do not care about pedestrians while using crosswalks to walk across,” he says. In principle, drivers are supposed to slow down their vehicles when seeing pedestrians using zebra crossings. But this is not a case in most instances.

In case of Kathmandu’s roads, there are not enough other means like overhead bridges and subways for walkers to cross the road. Zebra crossings are required to be in place for pedestrians to cross the road. But sadly, there are not sufficient zebra crossings to meet the flow of pedestrians, even then in some cases the white marks are already faded making it difficult for both walkers and drivers to locate zebra crossings.

According to the World Health Organisation, road accidents are the world’s eighth leading cause of death. Every year, 1.3 million people die and other 50 million are injured due to road accidents around the world. In Nepal, 5,051 road accidents were reported so far in the current fiscal year, and out of which 168 people lost their lives and 184 were injured. A total of 43,176 road accidents occurred in the past 10 years, in which 1,487 were killed and 4,961 were seriously injured, according to the traffic police records. RSS—