Thursday, 16 July 2015

An exercise in Service Learning: Being a Skywalker

In a city like Bangalore where the population is 8.5 million with a large percentage of it being the youth, road safety and precaution should be an issue of primary care and concern.
Over the last ten years, the rapid population growth due to IT and other associated industries has led to an increase in the vehicular population to more than 2 million, with an annual growth rate of over 10%. Further, there has been a significant increase in the number of two wheelers and personal cars in use.

Hosur Road, near Dairy Circle is one area that sees shoppers, office-goers, students and employees, all moving in an incredible rush. Being a densely populated area, the BBMP, estimates these numbers to be around an estimated 16,000 per day. Thus, the traffic on Hosur Road is a constant during most times of the day and crossing it is no cakewalk. Children and adults cross the road in the same manner – jumping the signal, running between buses, narrowly missing autos. 

This issue is found to be the same in the narrower lanes and by-lanes in the area as well – be it S.G. Palya, or Chikkalakshmiah Layout, there is no guarantee if the pedestrian, the driver or both are at fault. One faces the same danger in both cases. For a while, there seemed to be no way around it.  That was however, until the establishment of the foot overbridge in front of Christ University. The skywalk was set up under a public-private partnership (PPP) programme that was initiated by Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagar Palike (BBMP) in 2014. Today, it even has a lift installed that can hold around 50 people at a time.

The problem that is seen however, is the minimal use that the skywalk is put to. While a large number of people make use of it, there is a larger number that does not. And most often, there appears to be no concrete reason as to why they do not do so.
As a group of socially aware and active individuals, the students of third year Sociology decided to take matters into their own hands.
On July 2nd, 2015, about a group of fifty students decked in red and/or black, holding posters and stickers, spread themselves out across Hosur Road to ensure that people made use of the skywalk. Beginning from Chikkalakshmiah Layout which houses a large number of college-goers, to Christ University, these students made note-worthy attempts in convincing the public at large to ‘be a skywalker’.

Many people refused to do so, with one even claiming that ‘my time is more important that my life’. A certain employee of Tech Mahindra made a gesture of being late for work and thus ignored the pleas of the campaigners, but took a while before he could get across the road. Going back halfway and using the skywalk got him over quicker, and our point was also made. Similar was the issue with many who were in a hurry to get across, regardless of age. Since the activists took to the roads at the peak time, from 8.30 to 10 AM, the resistance was much stronger than at other times. This highlights the strong work culture that is set in our minds, but no road ethics. It also points to us taking life for granted and value time and money over life itself.

Some however did motion to the campaigners about the good job that they were doing and even stopped to read the posters that they held up. They even posed for photographs and seemed to feel glad when we thanked them for using the overbridge, or said that they did a good job. Their smiles and efforts were little success stories.

While individuals may have been convinced to be a skywalker on a certain Thursday, there is a limited chance they continue to do so. One might consider the skywalk if they realise that the roads are crowded or traffic is abysmal. However, they need to realise that the skywalk is there for a reason – it is there for US to be safe, rather than sorry. Further, it does not take up much of an individual’s time but instead, helps save time. As they say, ‘better late than never’.

Pratyusha Dwivedi
3rd PSEng

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