Wanted: Pedestrian Maps

map

This may come as a surprise to you, but before we had bullock carts, cycles, motorcycles, cars and buses, people used to walk to get around. I know this is shocking because you’ve never seen connected footpaths and walkways in Delhi (or other Indian cities). Sure, our government has constructed footpaths here and there with a pinch of foot over bridges for good measure, but they are not appropriately connected to each other: I often find myself walking on roads along with SUVs and (holy) cows.

Unobstructed footpaths in Indian cities are as rare as a clean river or an honest politician. While honest politicians attempt to clean rivers unscientifically, I appeal to them* to attempt yet another important public service: the provision of pedestrian maps.

(* = or to 19 year old IITians looking for an app idea)

Just as we have maps for vehicular traffic, we must have maps that detail where precisely can we walk to (safely) using footpaths, pedestrian bridges, underpasses and zebra crossings. Populating such a map is arguably a simple task, but it could have an important and disproportionately large impact: precise knowledge about the lack of pedestrian walkway connectivity could trigger public and administrative interest in ensuring walkability in cities.

The ultimate goal must be to ensure that an individual on wheelchair be able to travel from any point in the city to the other — after sunset — without having to step off a dedicated pedestrian walkway (phew). All this talk of last-mile connectivity (and therefore reducing pollution by promoting public transport), road safety, disability access and law & order is meaningless if people can’t safely walk in their own city.