Why Calcutta jaywalks

Jaywalking was to blame for more than half the road accident deaths across the city last year.

By Debraj MItra in Calcutta
  • Published 10.02.18
Stop! Make way, the pedestrian gestures. Quick change of traffic lights leave pedestrians with little option at times

Calcutta: Jaywalking was to blame for more than half the road accident deaths across the city last year.

More than 150 people were prosecuted for jaywalking on an average every day last year despite a series of awareness campaigns, according to the figures with traffic police.

But what makes Calcuttans jaywalk?

Pavements full

Pedestrians are forced to walk on the road because most footpaths are taken by hawkers.

"The entire footpath is dotted with stalls. Where is the place to walk?" asked a chartered accountant at a firm in Gariahat.

The scene is no different on Park Street. A man working at an office in Chatterjee International gets down at Park Street Metro station every day and walks on the road till he reaches office. "It takes me at least five minutes more to reach office if I take the pavement," he told Metro. Reason: The entire pavement is occupied by food stalls.

The signal is red for pedestrians at Gariahat but people seem not to care. 
Pictures by Pradip Sanyal & Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya

Zebra crossings

From Ultadanga to Gariahat to Esplanade, zebra crossings have been reduced to mere stripes by buses, autos, taxis and other vehicles. Drivers do not think twice about stopping their vehicles on zebra crossings, forcing pedestrians to risk life and limb.

On the Ruby-bound flank of Gariahat, the zebra crossing was barely visible on THursday afternoon because half-a-dozen autos and a minibus were occupying it.


Traffic signals often change in a flash on busy roads, giving passengers just a few seconds to cross the road.

Near the JL Nehru Road-SN Banerjee Road crossing at Esplanade, the red light for vehicles turned green within a few seconds. "There was no time to think. I darted across road," said a man.

Stop at will

Bus drivers stop at will at places that are not designated stops. Passengers have little choice but to walk down the road to get on or off a bus.

On Thursday, too, there were scores of people waiting in the middle of JL Nehru Road near Oberoi Grand although there is no bus stop there. They jumped on to running buses that slowed down. Traffic cops were busy keeping traffic moving and did nothing to prevent the buses from picking up passengers.

Talking on the cellphone while crossing the road is a common habit


Construction for the Joka-BBD Bag Metro has encroached on both flanks of the congested Diamond Harbour Road in Behala. The pavements have become dump yards for debris.

Old habits

Jaywalking has become a tradition in Calcutta. The pedestrians are not used to seeing traffic rules being followed. At Gariahat, some 10-12 pedestrians crossed the road despite a red light.