Nepal | October 18, 2018

Jaywalking, no more

Sunita Lohani

Now dare to cross roads randomly only if you are willing to cough up Rs 200 as fine, or dedicate 3 hours of your time to road safety class

Jaywalking

Photo: Naresh Shrestha

KATHMANDU: When the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division (MTPD), Ram Shah Path started levying a fine of Rs 200 on jaywalkers from May 30, or if they cannot not cough up the fine amount, the jaywalkers are to attend road safety classes at its office at Ram Shah Path, social networking sites got busy. There were posts and tweets, comments and even criticism of the rule saying that people who do not know about the rule would fall victim to this new regulation. The MTPD has made it mandatory for all pedestrians to use zebra crossings while crossing roads, and use sky bridges or subways whenever possible.

On June 1 Facebook user Padam Shrestha posted a satirical post on the new traffic rule: “When I tried to cross road in Chabahil, I couldn’t find it (zebra crossing), so took a taxi to the airport, paid a fare of Rs 150 and crossed the road there. I saved Rs 50. (Chabahilma baato cross garna laako zebra crossing navetera taxima Rs 150 tirera airport pugera baato cross gariyo, 50 rupaiya ta napha nai vayo).”

Likewise, Shyam Sundar Pudasaini posted: “People who tore ballot papers, killers are awarded, but those who cross the road are caught #achievement of republic day. (Matapatra katne, Manchhe katnelai samman, Baato katne pakrau # Ganatantrako Upalapdhi).”

Looking at social media it seems people are not happy with the new rule. But is this really so?

People’s reaction

Unlike the rantings on social networking sites, most of the people on the roads are happy with the new rules. Sixty-five-year-old Amrita Rai from Nepaltar supports the new traffic rule. “We should follow the new rules to be civilised. It is also for our safety,” she affirms.

Jaywalking

Photo: Naresh Shrestha

Twenty-six-year-old housewife Renu Subba was at New Plaza with her 65-year-old mother waiting for a vehicle. About the new rule she shares, “I use the zebra crossings. If people are not following traffic rules, then it is right to detain them or impose a fine on them.”

However, her mother is does not know about the traffic rules. Why? “Ah … she stays at home. Though television and radio have been airing the news, people have shown an indifference towards it,” informs Subba.

A group of boys crossed the road a little away from the zebra crossing at New Plaza while the Traffic Police on duty were busy directing the vehicles.

On being questioned about their jaywalking Taradata Paneru, 25, from Baneshwore, says that they were in a hurry and didn’t see the zebra crossing. “But I watched
the other side and vehicles had been stopped, so we crossed the road,” he says.

But he appreciates the new rules. “This is good and it is for us. Only the wrong people dislike it.”

Then there are people like Sita Tamang, 31, from Machhapokhari who was caught while crossing road near Bir Hospital. “I came here to meet my relative. There weren’t any vehicles on the road, so I tried to cross wherever it was convenient for me. But the police caught me. After buying fruits, I had been left with Rs 150 (not enough for the jaywalking fine). So, I am here.” Tamang was at the Office of the Traffic Division waiting to attend the road safety class.

Didn’t you know about the traffic rules? “I had heard about it but didn’t know that they would actually levy a fine!”

Gopal Yadav, 53, from Gaushala was caught while crossing the road at Gaushala Chowk. “I usually don’t cross the roads at zebra crossings, but they have never caught me. I did the same today but got caught. Plus I didn’t have the money to pay the fine.” So he was also waiting for the same class.

However, Yadav is aware that pedestrians should cross roads at zebra crossings or use sky bridges.

Jaywalking

Photo: Naresh Shrestha

Traffic beat

Chief of MTPD, Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIGP) Mingmar Lama says that according to the Vehicles and Transport Management Act, 1993, “We are imposing new rules on pedestrians. Article(s) 136 and 137 have provisions for the pedestrians. According to Article 136, pedestrians have to walk on the footpaths, and if there are no footpaths, then they should walk on the edge (side) of the roads. Article 137 direct pedestrians to cross roads using the zebra crossings, sky bridges and subways. We are levying a fine as per this rule.”

DIGP Lama asserts, “I’m not imposing the law on my whim and fancy. I want to save/protect the lives of pedestrians.”

Explaining the reason behind imposing this rule he says, “Annually, as many as 70 people get killed in road accidents because of jaywalking. Last year out of 138 people who lost their lives in road accidents, 63 were jaywalkers which translates to 42 per cent. This was shocking news to me. When people are walking on the roads, how can they meet with accidents? Isn’t it shocking news to you too? So, being a citizen of this country and as we already have laws regarding this, I’m implementing the laws to save those 42 per cent people.”

Criticism of new rules

While people are welcoming this MTPD move, some are saying that the police hurried to impose the rules. They should have run an awareness programme beforehand to implement the law as well as build infrastructure to support this move is the argument.

But Subba says, “I knew about the traffic rules campaign. I was at Satdobato Chowk when students in Scouts uniform directed pedestrians to use the zebra crossing while crossing the road. I have also seen advertisements on TV.”

Goma Adhikari, 19, from Manamaiju says she did not take the campaign seriously. “I saw advertisements and campaign about road safety once, but I ignored because it didn’t draw my attention. Like me, there are many people who ignored the campaign.”

Adhikari suggests they should “have done the campaign in such a way that would have grabbed public attention and would have accepted it”. She wonders, “That is perhaps why so many people are caught violating traffic rules.”

But DIGP Lama begs to differ. “I can’t tell it in the ear of every citizen. You cannot say we haven’t conducted awareness programmes. Due to the elections and to make the public aware about road safety rules, we delayed implementing the rules till May 30,” he informs adding, “On April 4,
we took two decisions regarding safety for public. One was no-horn, and the other fining jaywalkers. The first one came into effect
from April 14 and has become
a success.”

And he says they have conducted awareness campaigns in various ways. “On April 28, on the initiation of the Police Community Service Centre and with the help of 1,500 volunteers, we conducted traffic rules awareness programmes for pedestrians in 26 centres of the Police Community Service Centre. Awareness campaigns were also held by the National Transport Entrepreneurs Associations, and celebrities Basundhara Bhusal, Kiran KC aka Rata Makai, Shivahari Mainali along with folk singers came out on the roads to inform the public about road safety rules. Likewise, Scouts and college students joined hands to disseminate information about traffic rules. We also broadcast advertisements in cinema halls.”

Jaywalking

Photo: Naresh Shrestha

Regarding infrastructure or lack of it thereof, DIGP Lama says, “We aren’t levying fines on those that are hindered by lack of infrastructure. We are fining those who knowingly ignore using zebra crossings and sky bridges.”

And he assures that “in places where there are zebra crossings and sky bridges, jaywalkers
will be fined”. He says they are
doing their job to keep the
public safe. “Do not doubt our intentions. If anybody is found guilty with proof as claimed by the media, I’m ready to face punishment. You can hit me,” he says.

Steps being taken

There should be at least 300 zebra crossings in Kathmandu Valley. There are only 47 at present.

“We discussed with the Road Division regarding zebra crossings, and they have assured us their
priority is zebra crossings,” says DIGP Lama.

Likewise, action against drivers parking their vehicles any where and street vendors selling products on footpaths are also being booked with the help of Nepal Police and Traffic Police and staff of Kathmandu Metropolitan City.

Traffic Police say

Traffic Police Constable Ajay Mandal stationed at Putalisadak opines that as compared to the first day (May 30), now (June 3) people are following traffic rules.

“On the first day, we caught many people, mostly students. They (students) told us that they haven’t eaten anything or that they were sick, so they needed to go home that’s why they crossed the road in a hurry and didn’t use the zebra crossing.”

But the scenario is a bit different now. “Now when they see us, they automatically go to the zebra crossing and cross the road from there. So, roads have become
more organised than in the past,” he informs.

 


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