In a previous story, I highlighted how various streets of North Chennai have turned into an obstacle course for motorists due to road works. But bad roads are not the only issue that one faces in these parts. Blatant encroachment of footpaths has been a problem that continues to remain unaddressed.
Pedestrians are treated as second-class citizens across the city. More so in areas where there are mixed-used zones where there are many commercial establishments. Many such streets are present where these shops and eateries have taken over footpaths, leaving pedestrians to jostle for space on the already poorly laid road and putting their lives in danger.
Read more: Chennai roads have no room for pedestrians
Shops encroach footpaths in Perambur
To illustrate what the average pedestrian in Perambur encounters, one can simply take a walk along the northern side of Perambur High Road which connects to Madhavaram High Road.
This is a high foot traffic area due to the presence of the Perambur railway station nearby, along with other transit points. Commercial establishments such as small shops, bakeries and other eateries continue to usurp the footpaths in these parts without regard for pedestrians.
Some of the ways in which commercial establishments have taken over footpaths are:
- Carving out seating arrangements for their customers by placing chairs and tables extending into the footpath
- Placing flex boards and signboards with the names of their shops and products and services offered by them. The boards are placed outside the entrance, on the footpath, blocking the way for the pedestrians
- Parking of vehicles of employees and customers on the footpath
- Use of footpath space to place display cases and other such amenities
- Use of the footpath as storage space for items from the shops, such as vessels used by restaurant kitchen
- Use of footpath space to provide hand wash and other facilities to customers
- Use of footpath space to place garbage bins and other waste from the shops
Attempts to free Perambur roads from encroachments
Residents of the area who had to navigate the encroached footpath daily banded together to file a petition through the Makkalai Thedi Mayor initiative.
But much to our dismay, the petition has been closed with a very brief response that reads “issue has been addressed”. This is far from the truth on the ground as the shops and other establishments that continue to encroach on the spaces are thriving before our very eyes.
Attempts made by the civic body to weed out illegal parking have failed as they have merely placed bollards below no parking signs. This has made the situation worse by reducing the space available for pedestrians even more.
Even if any shop faces action for encroachments, we have noticed that the same violations continue to be committed by them in a few days or weeks after a cooling-off period where there is no scrutiny on them. This leaves pedestrians having to constantly raise complaints and follow up without a permanent solution in sight against the shops.
Similar sights are common across the neighbouring areas in Kolathur and many other parts of the city.
Demands of pedestrians in dealing with encroachments
Residents and pedestrians demand timely and long-term actions that prevent commercial establishments from taking over public spaces in the city in this manner.
Some suggestions to tackle this issue are:
- Strict action against encroachment that goes beyond one-time fines or penalties
- Repeated violations leading to the cancellation of permits or licences to operate
- Confiscation of property that is placed on footpaths leading to encroachments
- An easy and quick way for pedestrians to complain and follow up on encroachments
- Roping in of traffic police to monitor encroachment in high footfall and high traffic areas
- Awareness among residents on avenues to raise complaints
- Sensitisation workshops for shop owners on the dangers they cause pedestrians
- Creation of designated paid parking areas for those who visit shops and eateries
Such a concerted effort is necessary to reduce the takeover of our roads by shops and eateries and allow room for pedestrians to safely navigate the city.