A city where people can move around safely is considered as a safe city. To enable people to move around safely requires major improvements on basic roads. It requires infrastructure investments – construction of overhead bridges and footpaths. It also calls for high safety measures – always crossing the road from zebra crossings and during green signals – to be implemented strictly. Pedestrians are vulnerable stakeholder of roads and need to be protected. It is obvious that pedestrians suffer the most in traffic accidents involving vehicles and pedestrians. Therefore, pedestrians need to be extra vigilant to ensure their own safety.
Every year more than 1.17 million people die and another 50 millions are injured in road accidents around the world. About 70 percent of the death occurs in developing countries. 65 percent of deaths involve pedestrians and 35 percent of pedestrian deaths are children. Over 10 million are crippled or injured each year. The majority of road crash victims – injuries and fatalities – in developing countries are not the motorised vehicle occupants but pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists and non-motorised vehicle (NMV) occupants. According to the traffic police data, on average, seven to eight people are killed in road accidents every day in Nepal.
We often witness pedestrians hit by vehicles on Nepalese roads. In such accidents the pedestrians often encounter tragic results. Roads in Nepal are narrow with many cracks and potholes. Drivers often want to avoid such cracks and potholes, which dramatically increases the likelihood of pedestrians being hit by vehicles. Similarly, narrow roads are generally unsafe for pedestrians.
The streets of Kathmandu are not pedestrian-friendly; therefore, it is very important that pedestrians be self-disciplined and strictly follow traffic rules and regulations. Pedestrians need to utilize sidewalks/footpaths and overhead bridges wherever provided. They should always cross at marked cross walks or traffic lights. If the footpaths do not exist, they need to walk on the sides of the road and not on the middle of road. Pedestrians should ensure that they are clearly visible to drivers before crossing roads, and they should cross roads only when traffic completely stops.
At traffic lights, pedestrians should only cross on green signals. They should never cross the road on red lights, and they should be patient and wait for the green signal. They should be extra careful at turning points and intersections, because at such points the visibility for drivers is worse.
Most of the accidents are caused; they do not simply happen. If all the stakeholders of roads act harmoniously, the rate of accidents would fall tremendously. On the roads of Nepal pedestrians cross road wherever convenient, neglecting zebra crossings, traffic signals and overhead bridges. Drivers are only human so there are always chances of accidents due to errors and lapses in concentration.
Errors could be brake failures, negligence of road signs, excessive speed, etc. vehicles may not stop or turn properly during such instances. Therefore, it is
extremely essential for pedestrians to ensure safe crossing. Footpaths in
Kathmandu are often very narrow causing pedestrians to walk on roads. This act should be prohibited and penalized strictly as it could lead to fatal accidents. It is important to realize that roads in Nepal are too narrow for vehicles to avoid
obstacles on the roads that appear abruptly. The best way to avoid accidents is to follow traffic regulations and be self-disciplined on the streets.
Concrete safety measures need to be implemented in Nepal immediately to protect pedestrians. Traffic education programs for children, publicity programs, driver training and testing need to be commenced immediately and regularly to ensure safer roads. Regular road safety programs need to be organized at schools, colleges, industries, public places, and so on. In European countries like Holland traffic education classes start from class four. In these lessons, children – four to 14 years of age – are taught traffic rules and the meaning of road signs, and they learn to use this knowledge in practice.
If children are convinced to follow traffic rules and regulations strictly, not only do they follow the rules and regulations, but they also compel their parents, friends and relatives to properly obey traffic rules. In Nepal, the traffic police is under-resourced and under-trained to deal effectively with road safety violations. In such situations, effective traffic law enforcement and law abiding pedestrians can play an important role in reducing traffic accidents. Traffic violators will have to be strictly penalized so that they do not repeat the violation and so that they are conditioned not to breach traffic regulations in general.
Traffic education campaigns need to be organized regularly and media – television programs, newspapers, radio programs and internet websites – and other relevant institutions should also conduct programs in road traffic safety to make roads in Nepal safer for all the stakeholders.
Gajurel is Transport and Traffic Consultant