KOCHI: A designated space for walkers - a quintessential part of the urban culture - had its beginning in the state nearly four decades ago in Kochi, according to old timers. Breathing in the fresh morning air along the backwaters set them up for the rigours of the day ahead. Development in the commercial hub over the years hasn’t exactly been accommodating of the ‘walkers club’.
“Foreshore Road adjacent Vembanad Lake was the place I used to go for morning walks during the late seventies,” reminisced K L Mohana Varma, writer and former bureaucrat, of the old Kochi days. “The cream of society were regulars there. As it was near the BTH, most of my writer friends visiting the city and staying there also would join me for walks. M T Vasudevan Nair, N P Mohammed and Punathil Kunjabdulla were among those. It was one of the most pleasant experiences one could get, with the fresh air and the scenic beauty.”
Later, with the changing times, many places in the city, including Panampilly Nagar, Marine Drive and the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium premises, developed ‘walkways’. “Safe walkways are the prime responsibility of any civic body,” said Sethu, writer and former Chairman and CEO of South Indian Bank.
“It should provide spaces where citizens can walk freely by swinging their arms. While walking in such a vigorous manner, the general public cannot think of the potholes or the gaps between the concrete slabs.” A part of urban culture, major cities across the globe boast of good amenities for walkers.
“Normally, it will be parks or grounds,” he said. “Mainly, it is a source of fresh air. A walk of 45 to 60 minutes is enough for an ordinary person. A senior citizen has a speed of about 4 km per hour. However, Kochi lacks a facility where the common man can go for a walk from his house. So, the walkways should cater to this need.” Mohana Varma also bats for cycling paths complementing walking areas.
“People can cycle from their homes to the walkways. It will the reduce pollution as most of them reach the walkways on motorcycles or in cars. It is not a big task for a city like Kochi which turned the Metro Rail into a reality in four years’ time,” he said.