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Frowning footpaths of Dhaka

Published : Thursday, 15 February, 2018 at 12:00 AM Count : 129
Ashley Shoptorshi Samaddar

In an overpopulated country like Bangladesh, inadequate street space is already a problem. Traffic congestion and crisis of parking lots along with insufficient housing have always been there to multiply the sufferings of city dwellers.
In such places, where already the roads and footpaths are not enough to suffice the requirement of pedestrians, many are found on the roads trying to earn their daily bread.
Footpaths, originally intended for walking, have now become mini shopping malls. Many cyclists and motorcyclists have also been using these footpaths as they want to avoid being stuck in traffic.
Food, clothes, cosmetics -- the list goes on if we look at these open street stores. As these young entrepreneurs cannot afford actual stores, they transform these pavements into their stalls. But, with the number of street stalls, trouble has increased for pedestrians; because the streets are not growing just as fast.
 Watch out for wheels on pavements!    
Pavements or footpaths are constructed for pedestrians to walk without being hit by motor vehicles. The youngsters of this age have become very health conscious. Thus, they have opted for a new form of transport -- bicycle. Even though the initiative sounds great, it has become a hazard for pedestrians.
The cyclists want to reach at their desired destination as quickly as possible and whenever they see a bunch of cars stuck in a signal, they lift their bicycles up and start rushing through the crowd, thinking of themselves to be Paul Walker, who can drift through people 'fast and furious'.
Many motorcycles are also seen on pavements for the same reasons. Therefore, it has become very difficult to walk as you do not know when a two wheeler will come rushing and collide with you, leaving minor yet painful injuries.
Stalls or malls?
Some of the city streets, for example, recent shopping treasure islands like Mirpur Hope road or Hatirjheel, have transformed from tiny, temporary stalls to permanent sitting slots for sellers and hawkers. They do not pay a penny and other utilities. So, the price is much more reasonable and affordable.
As they have occupied the place originally provided for walking, the pedestrians end up struggling through the main road, where fast pacing cars are constantly racing.
With more and more people stopping in the stalls for a sneak peak, the whole area becomes a mess. It has become more crowded than shopping malls these days. As rickshaws and cars come to shop here too, the whole street is blocked with a narrow lane available for vehicles to pass. This also creates unplanned parking. In consequence, the other cars are unable to pass through.

Food carts: the new dining lounge!
Along with clothes and accessories, the food merchants have also joined in as they too think the roads can be a food paradise for shoppers. Fuchka, street chaat, bhelpuri and jhal muri used to be very common. But nowadays, chicken fries, french fries, sub sandwiches and many other western foods have also become a part of these food carts' menu. Even oven baked pizzas are available on roads!
As the sellers always look for approaching crowd, they have decided to become neighbours to the shopping havens. They usually line up their small trolley carts near school gates and street stalls where the crowd is huge. Thus, they find more customers and their income is high enough.
With so much to gain, there is nothing wrong with running away with these trolleys as soon as they seeing a police van approaching. Sometimes, even the sirens help them vanish in no time.
Even though these new trends are appreciated by many, it cannot be denied that with such a rate of growing illegal blockades along the roads and pavements, the streets are becoming more and more narrow and congested.

Photo: Alex Romario

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