This drawing, by Swedish artist Karl Jilg and commissioned by the Swedish Road Administration, is an image portraying the space available for pedestrians on city roads. Narrow pavements and thin strips of zebra crossings are all that there is for people on foot, rather than those behind the wheel or a handlebar. Now, this image widely portrays the problems faced by pedestrians in Sweden or first world nations. The problems that mostly revolve around how people on foot barely get much space in a city scene. But if we bring in Indian perspective to the image, the story gets a bit more difficult.
The concept of road ethics, compassion for fellow drivers and a mental obligation to follow traffic signals for safety of self and others. These are some aspects missing in the Indian driver. Wearing of seat belt or a helmet while riding is only a reflex to avoiding police challans in India. This only reflects how much thought does an average driver put into ethics in this country.
If this drawing was painted in an Indian city, the limits would be a blur, making the situation more dangerous for the driver and the pedestrian. Pavements or cycle tracks here are either used as parking or for bypassing traffic by motorcyclists, so where does the pedestrian go?
Our roads do have zebra crossings painted on them, but how many of us look for one to cross the road, or even wait for the signal to go red for the traffic before crossing? The situation maybe better if we had signals for pedestrian crossings, but the authorities don't seem to have that high on their priority list.
We could count in population as a source of the problems, as it is for many others too. The sheer number of cars, motorcycles, scooters, auto rickshaws, hand pulled rickshaws, public buses, cycles is so big, where else would one accommodate for parking. Multi-storey car parks is one answer, however the government is far from making those available after every five kilometres.
Traffic scenario in India is still a long way from being like what it is described as in this image. Although, a first look of the drawing gives a negative impact, portrays roads as dark pits of death. But take a moment to look at it this way – the roads are clear of pedestrians, the pavements are clear of two-wheelers, there are signals in place for crossing the road ensuring safety for the pedestrian and the driver.