Advocating for the rights of pedestrians and a better environment

Sumaiya Nehla Saif, Dhaka Community Manager
Dhaka, 21 April 2016

In Dhaka, sustainable transportation has been increasingly advocated by both environmental and developmental practitioners in recent decades and its implications include a better environment, a lower commuting time, and a stronger transportation infrastructure. Moreover, a further advanced concept in sustainable transportation is improving walkability.

Although, measurable impact of it is limited, strategies of improving walkability are a promising addition to what policymakers take into consideration for urban planning, better infrastructure, and healthier environment. This also addresses another very serious issue for developing countries. They do not have the infrastructure to support their increasing population and consequently produce a high number of vehicles which leads to traffic gridlock, irresponsible driving, difficulty to regulate traffic control rules, and higher rates of pedestrian accidents. A suitable approach to address this is to advocate for better walkability, not only to ensure safety for the people who do not have any other mode of transportation but also to encourage more people to choose walking over vehicles that pollute the environment and cause congestion.

The current situation in Dhaka in terms of footpath availability, footpath quality, safety of pedestrians and facilities for disables and pedestrian amenities is poor and policymakers lack much needed enthusiasm for reform. Rather, there are policies to punish those who do not use foot-over bridges that require people to take two long flights of stairs to make the lives of drivers easier than pedestrians.

In collaboration with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Work for Better Bangladesh Trust (WBB) initiated thorough research on this issue. WBB took on initiatives to work on the results and promote walking as well as improve the overall pedestrian environment. It staged public campaigns to encourage people to choose walking as their mode of transport more often. Based on the results, Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) will also incorporate policies to improve walking environment. The plan includes accommodating pedestrians without vehicles as an obstruction and reduces pedestrian-vehicle intersections, increases shade cover to provide protection from the sun (as well as rain by planting long-leaf or broad-leaf trees), ensures visibility of pedestrians at night by putting LED lights in short intervals, and eliminates mobility barriers for pedestrians with physical disabilities.

If implemented more broadly, this project has immense future potential to help improve the road situation in Dhaka. It is environmentally friendly and ensures greater safety for pedestrians, consequently increasing the number of walkers and decreasing the number of pedestrian accidents in the city, thus making the city safer and more livable.

Photo: ~Pyb

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