Sunday 13 January 2013

Taking a Trip on Mumbai Pavements

I mentioned in my post about the Bandra Skywalk that it is almost damned near impossible to take a straightforward walk in this city. This is because the pavements are absolutely appalling!  You literally take two steps backwards for every one going forward in order to get anywhere. There is not much I like to complain about in Mumbai but the state of the sidewalks is definitely one of them.
When going out to the local market (that's about as far as I can manage on foot), not only do I have to dodge rickshaws, cars, humans, dogs (and the odd cow/horse), but I have to constantly be alert for maintenance problems such as the giant gaps over open sewers, cracked manhole covers, torrents of water from leaking pipes and errant paving blocks.  And each and every time that I gingerly step over those wobbly, cracked manhole covers, I wonder if they might cave in (resulting in me appearing in some hilarious You Tube video).
It is highly evident that poor civil engineering has led to the pavements being so wonky in the first place, and that this has been further exacerbated by the use of poor quality materials and cheap labour (a problem that manifests itself in so many areas of Indian life).  There is an absence of asphalt and concrete - materials commonly used to fabricate walkways worldwide. Instead, the pavements in India are assembled using a jigsaw of paving blocks (pavers) which easily dismantle and decay.
Without any kind of planning regulations you will also commonly find these obstructions built right into the middle of the sidewalk: mini electricity substations (!), bollards, lamp posts and advertisement hoardings; trees that grow out of the pavements, or trees that lean over from nearby properties that are not trimmed back; parked bicycles, cars and trucks; street-vendors sitting cross-legged in amongst their wares; piles of rubbish and dog poo, and even people's laundry left out to dry. At every street corner or at the corner of every driveway, you have to step down about a foot onto the road because there is no such thing as a mountable curb.  So you are up and down....down and up....up and down and so on. You can now begin to see that going for walk in Mumbai is more like completing an army assault course with a step class thrown in. And it will make you sweat just as much!
In fact most people (self included) do not even bother to walk on the pavements.  It's better to just walk on the comparatively flat road, even if it means getting your feet run over by the tyres of traffic whizzing past or being cut up by rickshaws. 
Taking a proper stress-free urban walk is one of the things I really miss about the UK.  Popping to the supermarket; strolling through the park; walking to the train station for my daily commute into London. The state of Mumbai pavements also means I can no longer wear nice pretty heels - if you wear anything other than (solidly built) flatties whilst going shopping for your veg, you run the risk of turning an ankle or tripping up - either that or it will take you three times longer to pick your way through the pavement obstacles.
Here is the photographic evidence from in and around Bandra:

Until recently this was a completely open two foot wide open sewer. If you were to walk around the corner in the dark, you would undoubtedly fall down it. Someone has made a rather amateur attempt to cover it up but better than nothing I suppose!

A telephone substation surrounded by rubbish

An electricity wire hanging right across the pavement!
Paving stones starting to self-dismantle

Where the pavement not only suddenly comes to abrupt end at a corner,
but is also obstructed by a lamp post and huge cables

A dodgy looking manhole cover

Typical - huge tree in the middle of the sidewalk

Somebody's laundry and moped on the pavement

A selfishly parked vehicle - taking up the whole width of the pavement!

A foot high curb - not properly joined to the road

Would you want to step on this manhole cover?  Not a chance!

OK little one..I'll try not to step on your paws....
Right outside the butcher's in Bandra - bicycles and cable stations taking up most of the pavement
This has got it all - signboard, telephone and cable stations, exposed electicity cables and rubbish. Errrr. I think I'll just walk on the road
(note the green 'Clean Up Mumbai' sign in the background!)

Oxen about to take a nap on the walkway.

The contents of this person's home spilling out on to the pavement.



  1. When I did my first walk around my hotel by the airport I nearly walked right into a giant hole in the concrete.

    1. too would have ended up in a 'hilarious' YouTube video!



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