Road safety continues to remain a major concern in Nepal, where hundreds of people lose their lives, and many others are injured every year.
Pathetic road condition, reckless driving, and carrying passengers beyond capacity, among others are often to blame for road accidents.
Here in the capital, the scenario is a bit different. Initiatives taken by traffic police in a bid to minimize road accidents is praiseworthy and laudable. Crackdown on driving under influence is one of them, which traffic police claim has significantly lowered the number of road accidents. Other traffic-related campaigns are also recognizable. Banning honking, taking stern action against haphazardly picking up and dropping passengers are good moves.
However, road safety for pedestrians is still a serious matter to take into account. Pashupati Thapa of Gaushala died in a road accident on July 10, 2017. A microbus knocked him down when he was crossing the road using a zebra crossing. He died of head injuries. A moth before that, Rabina Chaudhari, a school teacher, was killed after she was hit by a bus while using a zebra crossing in Basundhara. Similarly, in May, Padam Raj Subedi, a retired government secretary, lost his life when he was hit by a two-wheeler while crossing a road using zebra crossing in Anamnagar.
Both pedestrians and drivers do not care about zebra crossings, maybe they are not aware about the meaning of zebra crossing and the accompanying etiquette. Zebra crossing is a place on a road (in particular one where there is a lot of traffic), with white and black lines painted, and vehicles must stop to allow pedestrians cross the road at such places.
In bigger cities with heavy traffic and wider roads, using zebra crossings is placed together with traffic lights, as it is not always possible to stop traffic every time a pedestrian is to use zebra crossing to walk across. However, our city does not have traffic lights. It seems the government is not bothered to repair already installed traffic lights, or set up new ones.
As a result, pedestrians are forced to devise their own traffic rules. They have to make hand gestures to stop speeding vehicles while using zebra crossings to cross the road. Even then they do not feel safe, fearing that a speeding vehicle may hit them while using crosswalks, as pedestrians complain that drivers often do not stop despite seeing people using pedestrian crossings.
Manoj Rijal, a Master’s student, does not feel a sense of safety while using zebra crossings to cross the road. “It feels that speeding vehicles will knock me down while using zebra crossings. Drivers do not care about pedestrians while using crosswalks to walk across,” he says. In principle, drivers are supposed to slow down their vehicles when seeing pedestrians using zebra crossings. But this is not the case in most instances.
In case of Kathmandu’s roads, there are not enough alternatives like overhead bridges and subways for walkers to cross the road. But sadly, there are not sufficient zebra crossings to meet the flow of pedestrians. The white marks are already faded even at the places where there is one, making it difficult for both walkers and drivers to locate zebra crossings.
According to the World Health Organization, road accidents are the world’s eighth leading cause of death. Every year, 1.3 million people die and other 50 million are injured due to road accidents around the world. In Nepal, 5,051 road accidents have been reported so far in the current fiscal year, out of which 168 people lost their lives and 184 were injured. A total of 43,176 road accidents occurred in the past 10 years, in which 1,487 were killed and 4,961 were seriously injured, according to the traffic police records.