Mumbai: A former journalist has criticised the government in India for being too focused on car-owners, accusing it of neglecting pedestrians.

Commenting on Vidyadhar Date’s book, Traffic in the Era of Climate Change, Maharashtra’s Minister for Health and Environment, Suresh Shetty, too, agreed that a debate on the importance of footpaths should be taken up by civil rights groups.

“Footpaths are one thing we all miss these days as they have slowly started disappearing. There are no footpaths on our highways. Motorists and vehicular traffic get priority there. We, as policy makers, need to ponder these matters,” he said.

Date, who spent seven years of his retired life researching the book, says, “I decided to write this book because I am a determined walker. Of late, I have felt the humiliation that pedestrians feel as cars and automobiles take over our roads.”

He talks of a growing car culture which disempowers pedestrians, cyclists and the millions who use public transport daily and adds that it is the car users who enjoy the benefits of flyovers, highways and expressways built by the government. The book argues that cars can co-exist peacefully with pedestrians, cyclists and other road users with better social and traffic planning and political will.

In several Western countries, footpaths are being widened to provide more space for pedestrians and cyclists to reduce congestion and pollution. Date argues that even in the most car-dominated of countries, the United States, President Barack Obama has called for an increase in the use of public transport; while Indian authorities have been embracing the worst possible transport models from the West.

With Nasa recently conclusively showing that the motor vehicle is the biggest cause of global warming, it is time for Indian authorities to wake up for the sake of environment and social justice, says Date.