Zebra crossings, much like the animals they are named after, are under threat of extinction in the city. The once prominent white stripes painted before traffic signals have now faded away on most of the thoroughfares; others are casually ignored by motorists who only care to stop a good few metres after the traffic light.
The zebra crossing is a type of pedestrian crossing that is distinguished by alternating dark and light stripes. According to traffic rules in Pakistan, motorists are bound to stop their vehicles behind the white line that marks the start of the zebra crossing. The crossing allows pedestrians to cross the road safely, without the danger of being run over by motorists.
According to Code 28 of the Traffic Rules, motorists may be fined up to Rs500 if found violating this right of pedestrians. In reality, however, the rules are seldom obeyed. Motorists often stop their vehicles halfway into the intersection to wait for the signal to turn green. The traffic police, on the other hand, have no way of ascertaining the limits of the zebra crossings as most have faded away with time.
The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) is responsible for the upkeep of almost all major thoroughfares in the city. This includes the maintenance of zebra crossings. The corporation’s apathy towards the infringement of pedestrians’ rights is reflected in the fact that it has failed to allocate funds for zebra crossings in this year’s budget too.
Traffic police helpless
The traffic police officials on the roads are of the opinion that zebra crossings are a ‘long-gone phenomenon’ in Karachi. In their absence, the most difficult roads for pedestrians to tackle are major arteries such as Sharae Faisal, MA Jinnah Road, II Chudrigar and University Road.
Sannalluah, who has been serving in the traffic police since the past 26 years, went as far to say that Karachi’s roads are unsuitable for zebra crossings. “These roads were designed around four decades ago when there were few vehicles,” he explained. According to Sannallah, traffic problems can only be resolved once citizens realise their responsibilities. “Every driver and car owner should respect the rights of those who can’t afford such luxuries,” he said. “Only then will there be no violations.”
Traffic DSP Sikandar Ali Jatoi agreed. The official said that traffic fines were not the answer to the problems. “The fines merely serve as a deterrent.” He explained that almost 90 per cent of the traffic violated zebra crossing rules. “Most of the zebra crossings have faded away and need to be repainted.” In the absence of the lines marking the pedestrians’ right of way, the traffic police find it hard to fine the alleged violators.
An official at the Traffic DIG’s office told The Express Tribune that they have repeatedly written to the commissioner’s office for the redrawing of lines on roads, but all their concerns had gone unheeded.
Transport is not among the priorities of the provincial government or the KMC. “In the current budget of the KMC, the department has not allocated funds for the maintenance of road signs again,” said a KMC official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Another official said that the contractor who recently repaired the signs along Sharae Faisal has not received his money from the KMC yet.
When questioned, the KMC’s Transportation and Communication senior director Muhammad Athar said that they have planned to repair and repaint the signs but had not received funding for the past two years. “Our job is to provide safe roads for the people from whom we get taxes but we have no funds for it,” he lamented.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2014.