I remember the trips my father and I used to take on his Kinetic Honda gearless scooter to school. The highway was always crammed with vehicles post noon. But every motorist had the quintessential Indian jugaad, one that continues to be followed by most across cities.
What were footpaths for, they’d think? And then like many others, my father and I would follow suit as motorists sped on the footpath and took a hundred convoluted cuts to reach school at 12:30 sharp.
Back then, I did not realise how much inconvenience we posed to pedestrians, for whom the footpath was actually meant. Only when the tables were turned, and I became a pedestrian, did I realised how frustrating dealing with such unruly motorists could be.
But one Bengaluru footpath warrior has found an innovative way of driving away these bikers and make space for pedestrians on footpaths to walk, which is rightfully theirs. She is often seen arranging stones along sidewalks to stop motorists from driving over them.
On March 16, a two-minute long video of 27-year-old Manju Thomas emerged where she stood on the sidewalk stopping two motorists from driving over it.
Pawan Kumar, who uploaded the video on his Facebook timeline wrote, “Friends, today this is what happened opp to Corporation bus stop(buses towards Lal Bagh) at around 7.30pm. A lady by name Manju Thomas stood stubbornly on the footpath and did not allow any two wheelers pass on the footpath. Situation turned bad when two crooks in a white Honda Activa KA ** ** **** objected her standing on footpath and allow their vehicle to pass. They even started abusing her in namma Kannada bhaashe, because she didn’t know Kannada. I along with my cabmates got down and joined her to support the lady and after heated argument they got down their Activa on road.
Hats off to Manju Thomas for her bravery and making them realise the importance of pedestrian footpath. Later I understood she stands there everyday after her work for an hour and guides all two wheelers to take the road instead of footpath. She deserves full respect. Please share to as many people till it reaches the police to take action.”
You can watch the video here. It has received a whopping 1.1 million views, 19,000 shares and 4,800 comments.
When the Times of India spoke to the 27-year-old, she expressed how her phone had been ringing off the hook with people congratulating her.
“I never expected that the video would be uploaded to social media or receive an overwhelming response. I thought Pavan Kumar, who was a bystander, was taking the video to give it to police,” she said.
The HR professional at a private firm on J C Road revealed that she had been long championing the rights of pedestrians to walk comfortably on the footpath and has been fighting this motorists menace since the time she was studying at the city-based Christ College.
Sharing the kind of reactions she usually receives from people, she told the publication, “Normally, most bikers smile and acknowledge their mistake, but the person in the video was adamant and asked me who was I to stop him. I politely told him that pavements are meant for pedestrians and not for motorists, but he didn’t listen to me and continued to argue.”
She expressed how it was unfair for bikers to take up even the little space pedestrians was left with and how traffic police need to up their game and take pavement riding offences seriously.
“I have a large collection of photos and videos of footpath riders. Traffic cops should increase the fine amount for these violations and take stringent action against violators,” Manju told TOI.
The video seems to have reached the right ears, as additional commissioner of police (traffic) R Hithendra instructed three DCPs to boost enforcement against footpath riders.
Youngsters like Manju Thomas reinstate our faith in the power of youth to effect change in their daily lives. Even in the face of verbal abuse, she stood undeterred and did her best to instil basic traffic rules among motorists who at most times, fail to understand how their actions affect the rights of footpath pedestrians.
We hope this incident inspires many more individuals to speak up the next time the next time they are faced with a situation like this. We salute Manju for her display of courage and level-headedness.
(Edited By Vinayak Hegde)