Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Nothing wrong with Talking while Walking

A recent Idea! ad generated some controversy about talking on the cell phone while walking. People protested that it was contrary to Road safety.
This is not unusual - in India, collectively people have decided that pedestrians are to blame for their own deaths or loss of limb. The other day, I saw a girl crossing a junction with no signal - she was talking on the cellphone. A passing scooterist speeded up on seeing her, came very close, and yelled at her for talking on the cellphone while crossing.
This seems completely weird to me - what these people are seeking is a justification that the roads belong to vehicles; vehicles have right of way in unmarked crossings.
To me, it is perfectly ok to talk on the cellphone while crossing an unmarked (no-signal) crossing.
Refer to my post on pedestrian rights here - I think what vehicle owners are out to do is to cheat and bully pedestrians out of their right to walk freely in the road.
Indian cities are not pedestrian friendly - there are no sidewalks and most crossings have no signals. In this situation, pedestrians have right of way in unmarked crossings.
What is wrong with walking while talking on the cellphone? Pedestrians do not need licenses to walk on the roads. They are perfectly within their rights to talk on the cellphone while walking.
This whole myth of "oh the evil pedestrians mess up traffic" is a product of plain thuggery. What these people want you to believe is that pedestrians would simply stop and chat on the middle of the road. As we all know, this assumes that vehicle owners are reasonable people who mind their business while pedestrians are somehow loafers with nothing to do.
The true factor behind such idiocies is that vehicle owners believe that they have potent weapons (their vehicles) which can cause irreparable harm to a pedestrians' life. So they are using this bullying tactic to deny pedestrians their rights - in reality, this is the age-old Indian trends of abuse of power and blaming the victim.
I hate people who provide an intellectual justification for such power-abusers.
In reality Road-safety in the Indian context has nothing to do with pedestrians - it has to do with drivers who respect no rules and are ignorant of other people's rights; and roads which force pedestrians to share space with vehicles.
Meanwhile pedestrians have every right to talk while walking.


Shaffi said...

Hi Thala,

I say, you are absolutely wrong on this!!!

We All Walk, ride scooters, drive cars. Based on what we are currently using to travel, we used to blame the others as such we are always on the right path and only we are going for an important work.

You will agree, that this is wrong.

Now, when there is a non signal crossing ahead of the road, the rider have least possibilty of knowing that, there is a crossing and there might be someone will try to cross (perhaps, he is new to that place).

But when the Pedestrian crosses a road, he will definitely know that this is a broader(main) road, definitely some vehicle is coming up the way.

And In an emergency case, where you have to react so quick, the pedestrian have to just stop where he is, where as stopping an vehicle is not that easier as everyone aware.

Thatswhy the highway constructers always use to put fence till the borders of every village and provide service roads for the pedestrians and other small vehicles.


Ramiah Ariya said...

You are mistaken - my point is entirely based on laws. It is not about blaming the other - these are systemic issues.
By law, vehicular traffic is regulated by granting licenses and fining for bad driving. What vehicle drivers are trying to do is to pretend that pedestrians have similar regulations. But by law, pedestrians are ONLY regulated for jaywalking.
The second problem is that our roads are laid without any worries about coexistence between vehicles and pedestrians in the same space. That always leads to disaster.
Instead of acknowledging these, nothing is gained by blaming pedestrians. I have quoted earlier entire articles based on the idea that road safety is somehow a pedestrian problem. It is not. It is laughable to imagine that - has anyone seen pedestrians running across the roads to avoid getting hit in our roads? Do we really think they WANT to be hit?
If there is a crossing in the road, the logical thing AT EVERY CROSSING, is for vehicles to stop and go. This is how it works in every other country. Only in India does a person crossing the road get yelled at and then people justify such behavior.
It IS the responsibility of vehicle drivers to slow down at every crossing or come to a complete stop - the only reason they don't do it is because they know that anyone crossing will be hurt and therefore it somehow becomes the pedestrian's job to avoid being hurt. This is what I called bullying and abuse of power.
Further most of what I am saying applies to city and town roads. Highways are a whole another story.

Anonymous said...


I probably agree with Mr. Shaffi about this matter. If you were the vehicle in the scene you describe above you would have probably yelled to that girl. Try to see the point of view of vehicles person too. The problem for person driving the vehicle is that first of all he can slow down easily and if he is accident while with a pedestrian who was talking on phone and the idiot pedestrian who was not looking over the traffic has the fault but then also people will blame the person driving the vehicle. They won't see that the person who was crossing was not even looking at traffic. The road neither belongs to vehicles nor to the pedestrian. They both need to follow certain laws. So if the pedestrian is talking on phone and he is not looking over traffic than its his/her fault. Also the person driving the vehicle must also slow down but as you said there was no signal so people won't slow don't normally if there is no signal on cross section. I would agree on the matter that there are many bad drivers who break law but even the public has become smart and quite mean. They will try to get in accidents and try to suck that person's all money by putting a case on it. So even the public is really selfish on this matter. Don't take me wrong but there are people who try to do this also. There should be a simple law a person should keep hold on his phone until he cross the road and then he can get back to his talking so he will also play a role in keeping his life safe.


An Open Minded Person :).