Back to beaten paths

The other day, I took a beaten path and found trees missing and footpath potholed and encroached. Many local authors incorporated descriptive scenes of characters walking on The Mall, which all of us call Mall Road, as at the time, this was the case. People used to be able to walk on footpaths along the roads of the city

For workout, I have to go to the gym. There were days when I used to stroll along roads. Not anymore. Lahore, the city of gardens, used to be a pedestrian-friendly city. Some decades ago, people like me could easily walk on the roads to reach their destinations.

The other day, I took a beaten path and found trees missing and the footpath potholed and encroached. Many local authors incorporated descriptive scenes of characters walking on The Mall, which all of us call Mall Road, as, at the time, this was the case. People used to be able to walk on footpaths along the roads of the city. I was perhaps a teenage boy when walks were a pleasure.

The expansion of the city and urban infrastructure development, however, took this experience away from many of the city dwellers. Now Lahore has turned into a concrete jungle with bridges, underpasses, tall buildings, and wide roads with little to no space for pedestrians. The city has lost much to ill-planned urban development.

The widening of roads meant that footpaths had to be reduced to a mere strip. Although many people still walk around the city to travel, the activity has become much more difficult than it was some 50 years ago. Pedestrian rights were completely ignored while development was taking place in the city. The only safe spaces left for walking are parks, and Lahore lacks those as well. The only two parks that come to mind when thinking of long treks in the city are Jilani Park and Model Town Park. These two house tracks are for the general public in the heart of Lahore. There are a few parks in DHA as well that are designed for those who want to walk, but only a small percentage of the population resides in these areas.

Walking, however, is not restricted to leisure. Some people have to travel short distances, and they prefer walking rather than using a vehicle. For this reason, footpaths are extremely important. When touring through Lahore, people can see footpaths along the roads. However, their size has significantly reduced over the years, and now people cannot walk on them. Therefore, they are forced to walk on the sides of roads, which is the main cause of accidents. It was reported in a study done by JICA that 30% of the total road traffic fatalities were pedestrians. The lack of proper footpaths cannot be completely responsible for this number; however, it does play a major role. Since there aren’t as many footpaths available, people do not know the rules of crossing roads. Moreover, drivers are not accustomed to driving on roads that allow pedestrians to walk. The lack of footpaths may not be the only reason but every other reason does stem from this problem.

Walking is extremely necessary for me as it keeps me fit. The same is for all of you. In western countries, most people travel by public transport that drops them at certain stops and for the rest of the journey, they travel on foot. This is one of the major reasons why they live longer and remain fit throughout their lives. People living in countries like Pakistan do not get the opportunity to walk long distances as there are safety concerns and a lack of spaces to walk on. The government must plan the city in such a way that pedestrians’ rights are not trampled over. Lahore needs to regain its charm so that future generations can walk along roads in the foggy winters of the city and feel what their older generations did before the city turned into a concrete jungle.

“There were days when I used to stroll along roads. Not anymore.” I wish I would not write these lines.

Author

  • Ali Sajjad

    Ali Sajjad is the editor-in-chief of Minute Mirror. He can be reached at chiefeditor@minutemirror.com.pk.

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