Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pedestrian Day: A step in the right direction

~The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step~

Most of us today will see petroleum and other conventional energy sources run dry within our lifetime. By the end of the next couple of decades, our current way of life will come to an abrupt end. Our children will see diesel automobiles only as exhibits. We will then have no option but to revert to employing our physical faculties like our not so distant forefathers.

However, there are changes that we can make in our life style now so that we can keep at bay this dire scenario indefinitely .The conscious steps that we take now will also help us prepare for this eventuality so that when it does come, its impact would not be as disorienting and debilitating as it will otherwise be.
The pedestrian Day initiative is of noble intent and eons hence, we will have reasons to be proud of the choice that we have made now. The little sacrifices that we make, the inconveniences that we take in our stride now and the bluff that we call our detractors will all become matters to celebrate in the near future. In the short run, this initiative will help us offset the great trade imbalances and their accompanying economic woes that we are just waking upto now. We have the tendency to blindly chase after material indulgences and this decision is a small reality check. Our tiny economy cannot afford the endless import of vehicles and the great measures of fuel to keep them running.

The most beneficial effect of this move though is likely the awareness it will create. After our thoughtless existence thus far, we have come to accept a car as a modern day necessity. Being able to walk down the street of our capital with our office stationeries and groceries for home have made us realize how mistaken we were. We realize that we can actually walk the whole distance of Thimphu city, and with much greater joy and relish. Having lived with this policy change for a couple of weeks, we realize that personal cars aren’t so indispensible after all.

It is refreshing to see our colleagues, seniors and the other who’s who of our society walk the same path. We realize that walking is such a great leveler. It is a chance for our society to come together and understand each other’s situation being at the same level once more. We realize that we have lost so much of our human touch by driving in our shielded SUVs (or utility Nanos, for that matter) without so much as getting a glimpse of each other. We also realize that walking doesn’t make you smaller, especially when everybody else is walking too. It took a policy shock to make us realize this, but it is better late than never. 

By default, this initiative has also given the chance for us to seriously consider developing our public transport system which we stress so much but seldom bother investing in. We realize now that if we had an efficient public transport system, we need not drive our cars on all our small errands. All we need then is a city bus to carry us around in comfort and with efficiency. At the same time, if it is about walking, then there are so much we can do to make our cities pedestrian friendly, not just in spirit but in terms of the physical infrastructures too. All the savings and goodwill support that we will no doubt gain from this gesture will help us do just that.

There will be detractors no doubt. Changes will take time to sink in and be accepted. There will be vested interest arguing for shelving this initiative like all other good thoughts. The move will also be misappropriated at all levels. This move can give an ideal excuse for the less honest to report late on work. Commercial drivers will look to take advantage of hapless passengers .Traffic officials might get fatigued from listening to the endless streams of complaints. Municipal workers and elected members might come under fire from their constituencies. The residents themselves might feel hard pressed under a sense of state domination. No doubt our state at times can be overbearing to the point of snubbing public right on frivolous counts. But this time around, this is not such a move.
We can just hope that we have the strength to bear it all and carry through what we all know is a noble initiative. If so, in a few years’ time, Pedestrian Day will become a norm rather than an exception, and we will be able to walk through the length and breadth of our city everyday of the week. By then, we will not only have the determination, but also the system in place to facilitate this choice. Our planet and future generation will thank us for our sensitivity, kindness and most importantly, our resolve in a world of spineless masses.

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