Pedestrian Day so far

It has been more than a month since Pedestrian Tuesday was first introduced on 5th June, 2012. Since then there has been a mixed response to the initiative. However, as more Tuesdays pass by a growing number, who now form a slim but sizeable majority are against the initiative in its current form. It is also apparent that the Pedestrian day enjoys a significant amount of support.

In the recent BBS debate called the Peoples voice on the question, ‘If the Pedestrian day initiative was well received,’ 2,847 voted No and 1,315 voted Yes.  In terms of percentage it was 68% No and a 32% Yes. The highly charged and also at times emotional nature of the debate showed the depth of feelings on the subject.

Another poll on an online news website showed that 643 voters felt it was good while 750 of them felt it was either forced, impractical or can be improved. In contrast a National Environment Commission Survey found that out of the 500 people they sampled 316 people said yes to the Pedestrian day.

As regards to the impact of Pedestrian day it was found that the number of vehicles dropped from around 6,000 to 3,000 on the day in Thimphu registering a similar drop in fuel consumption. Supporters of the day say that it allows them to have more social interaction along with a healthy walk.

Pedestrian day also comes in the backdrop of a severe rupee crunch and growing car pollution in Thimphu. If one takes an early morning walk to Buddha Point, walkers will notice that starting from the Thimpchu river going up to Mothithang, Thimphu is covered in a blue and gray haze of smoke. What impact that has on the lungs of the Thimphu residents can only be anybody’s guess.

Pedestrian day is also in the context of residents in Thimphu and other major urban areas falling prey to the global pandemic of lifestyle related diseases like obesity, diabetes, cancer etc. A recent report published in the medical journal Lancet claims that ‘inactivity’ is killing as many people as smoking worldwide causing 5.3 mn deaths a year.

However, despite the positive intentions and impact of Pedestrian day there are many who point out what they see as obvious problems with the day. Bhutan has around 30,000 business licenses that conservatively support around 60,000 employees. Many in this large sector say that Pedestrian day has hit their businesses hard. Many in this sector feel that the unusually muted media has not been able to highlight their problems while government agencies have not taken their grievances into account. As result some have decided to take matters in their own hands and plan to organize a ‘silent protest’ to get their message across to the government.

Parents with toddlers going to school also say that it is a problem. It is also becoming clear that less work is being done on Tuesdays both in government agencies and corporations as either less members of the public comes to them for services or their own mobility is limited. Companies and employees are also finding that their travel budget is getting bloated leading to more costs.

Many are complaining that the alternate arrangements like walking pathways, public transport etc is not adequate. Many more are asking why there was no public consultation on such a far reaching move.

There is no doubt that Thimphu is facing a serious problem of growing traffic problem. A more effective solution could be converting key roads like Norzin Lam, Chang Lam etc into Pedestrian roads. This has been done effectively in hill stations in India, towns in Switzerland and also in some of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

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15 comments

  1. just because the number of cars on lungtenzampa bridge goes down to 3000 does not mean that the fuel consumption has gone down. Many people are using the jungshina way or coming through the flyover and going through the ring road. The net fuel consumption is probably much higher.

    The traffic jam near the flyover bridge should be the clue to the real facts.

  2. the debate on BBS speaks volumes vis-a-vis pedestrian day. some 68% saying ‘No’. the NEC survey could be biased and the results are not tenable. as some one has suggested a better day could be Sundays. after taking all issues into account, why are there no pedestrian days in India, Brazil china and the US? they pollute the world most with cars and machineries 1000K more than our population; and their support to green nations are peanuts if at all. one should know that smoke,smog and heat cross borders and space equally. so the idea and initiate on this pd is naive and useless for us Bhutanese.

  3. Yes, Sundays would be ideal coz all govt. pools don’t move.
    Those big and strong countries less thought of global affects. So why not make examples by a tiny country like the one GNH.

  4. Glorified Clerk

    Ban the pedestrian day. After all we are very good at putting Bans. The actual number of cars on road may go down but not necessarily pollution and fuel consumption since the number of taxis double on the day as taxis from Paro, Punakha and Wangdue are also in Thimphu making brisk business. Can you imagine how many rounds they are making within Thimphu? – non stop. So the net effect to environment and fuel consumption is probably the same if not more.

  5. It is hard to belive that decisions like this which majority of the people disagree, cause inconvenience to all are made in a democracy. The idea of pedestrain day is good and i personally enjoy walking to office and back home but decisions cannot be made based on the likings of few individuals. People call it “Taxi Day” and I call it ” less productive day” and both stands true. But the real issue is the following few questions?
    1. Who were consulted?
    2. Why Tuesday? 3. What about school going 6 year old child? what about office going mother who need s to feed her child? what about important government meetings?

  6. The result of Pedestrian day debate on TV should not be construed as very true picture as only 4,162 voted out of 700,000 population.
    If the Pedestrian day is declared on Sunday there will be some section of people affected very badly who will also make hue and cry. One time we had system of closing all the business houses on Tuesday to allow a day’s break for the employees and those day the business firms never said they were losing millions due to closure. So why cry now!
    If we hold consultation there will be lot of problems, because if we try to please every we land up pleasing nobody.
    The decision taken by the Government should be respected and abide by it, because the people have chosen the Decision Makers- and they represent all the citizens collectively.
    Let us enjoy the walk, improve health, save environment and more importantly reduce INR spending to some extent.

  7. If we go by listening to every individual we can not achieve anything for the greater good of the society and the country at large.
    I feel the pedestrian day as being implemented on every Tuesday should be supported and  respected.
    What birla mentioned above truly makes sense and rather than complaining based on few hundred polls lets be positive and enjoy the day.

  8. you are indeed bullshit

  9. Now I know why Lyonchhen was forcing the Pedestrian Day rule on all of us. With this rule, the urgent requirement of City Buses was felt. There were not enough buses and Bhutan Post had to float a tender for buying buses. PM’s daughter’s husband participates in the tender and loses. Then Bhutan Post  somehow disqualifies the real winner of the tender (Samden group)  and awards the bid to PM’s son-in-law. Wow, how can we take this bullshit. 

  10. As per the Pedestrian day there was no humans right, It is ok for small cars but those truckers and DCMs have tuff time managing their timming. They have to work 7/7 a week so that they can make some profits after paying bank intrest.

    All this dirty Ideas came from Agriculture and Forestry Ministers head who has introduced HE HE walk and it got flop afte few months. HE wanted to popularise himself Like Lyonpo Sangay who became famous afte MOVE FOR HEALTH, But his idea have no effects and problems on general Public. Please DPT Govt.for god sake stop this type of system and do good thing which can benefit General Public.

    • Stop supporting these so called poor truck drivers, ask any truck malik and you will learn that these truck drivers are the biggest crooks going around and that far from being poor, they are actually pretty well off. I also watched the Pedestrian day debate on BBS and I was laughing at the joker who was trying to fight for the rights of these so called poor truck drivers who he said could not pay for their meals when they were not working. My answer to him is to buy a truck and a hire a driver, than he will know what I am trying to imply.

  11. Pedestrian day is one of the best move by this government. I fully support this move. All the best and congratulations to this wise decision by the government.

  12. This is not about media

    The vote in BBS is never true. I tell you this because i work here

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