CSE director general Sunita Narain discharged from hospital today

Hit-and-run vehicle not yet identified

Every hour, one person is either killed or injured in road accidents in Delhi. This is a grim reminder how the design of our roads and cities trigger such accidents

November 1, 2013: Eleven days after she was hit and severely injured by a vehicle while cycling on a road in Delhi, CSE director general Sunita Narain was discharged from the hospital. Her doctors said she was recovering well, upbeat about her condition, and hopeful of getting back to work very soon.

Doctors performed some major surgeries on her at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi: two titanium rods were implanted in her arms to support her shattered wrists, and surgeons operated on and reconstructed her broken nose.

Narain, an avid campaigner for the rights of cyclists and pedestrians on urban roads, used to cycle every morning from her home to the Lodhi Gardens. Recounting the incident, she said that the vehicle, which was in front of her, suddenly started backing up at great speed and hit her. There were no eyewitnesses to the accident, and a profusely bleeding but conscious Narain was taken to the AIIMS Trauma Centre some time later by a passersby.

Though a police case was filed, the errant vehicle and its driver remain at large; the police have not managed to identify or track them down. The road on which the accident happened boasts of a number of very busy marketplaces (Yusuf Sarai, INA etc) which are ostensibly under camera surveillance; however, the cameras reportedly did not yield any clues.

This raises a serious question, say sources in CSE: are these infrastructures installed for citizens’ safety really working? What use are CCTV cameras if they cannot capture events happening in and around the locality in which they are installed?  

This is also an occasion to send out a grim reminder that the road and urban design of our cities is also responsible for increasing accident risk. Road accident data for the year 2012 from the Union ministry of road transport and highways shows that about five persons die and around 18 are injured in road accidents in Delhi every day. Says Anumita Roychowdhury, CSE executive director-research and advocacy: “It is shocking that every hour one person is either killed or injured in road accident in Delhi. This adds to the disability related public health burden of the city enormously.” 

She adds: “It is stunning and ironical that while cars and two-wheelers are taking over roads, the city is not noticing the staggering number of walkers and cyclists who are the majority in the city.” While the total number of daily car trips in Delhi is about three million, that of walking and cycling is eight million – 2.5 times more. Cycling trips at 2.8 million are almost equal to car trips.

Though it is said that the modal share of walking and cycling trips are high in smaller cities compared to bigger cities like Delhi, in absolute numbers Delhi tops in daily cycling trips and is second to Mumbai in absolute number of walking trips. This staggering number is never visible and noticed for policy action. This data has emerged from the Union urban ministry supported study in 2008. 

Roads and flyovers designed for speed and convenience of motor vehicles without safe infrastructure for walkers and cyclists compromise road safety as well as undermine sustainable mobility. If it is not easy and safe for people to walk and cycle, or access public transport, they will steadily shift to personal vehicles and add to the pollution and congestion crisis. Road and urban design should give primacy to people and their safety should be in forefront of transportation planning. This paradigm shift is needed to ensure zero tolerance for any injury on roads. This also demands urgent and rapid reforms in public transportation to reduce dependence on personal vehicles. Design our city for people not vehicles. 


For more on this, contact Souparno Banerjee at souparno@cseindia.org / 9910864339.