Now that idle parking had been done away with in the road stretches of Paona Keithel and Thangal Keithel, shoppers are having a field day with more elbow room on the roads. Earlier, they had to negotiate with the traffic flow and double or sometimes triple parking in the market area in an effort to buy stuff.
While no permanent parking will be allowed in these areas, the residents and salesmen of Thangal and Paona Keithel will be provided parking spaces for their vehicles in the parking lots allotted over the slab-covered Naga River.
Of course, shoppers will be given a parking time of five minutes to facilitate easy shopping. Reactions in the social media from the general public is overwhelming and there is lot of praise for the government in this regard.
As we said, it certainly takes political will to implement the same, as indeed the bazar lobby is very powerful. In the previous term also, Chief Minister N Biren Singh had urged the residents, shop owners, shopkeepers to refrain from parking their vehicles on the roadside. The general idea was of decongesting the traffic in the core market area, and the periphery roads.
Yet, the shopkeepers of Paona Keithel protested the new parking norms by downing shutters, while that of Thangal Keithel remained silent. What they fail to understand is that, importance had to be given to shoppers rather than shopkeepers.
The shops thrive when shoppers buy their goods. So, it is but natural to provide more elbow space and easy accessibility for the general public who come shopping. As far as we remember, the original idea of covering the Naga River with concrete slabs was aimed at preventing people from dumping waste in the river while also providing public parking to shoppers coming to the market which may or may not include vehicles of the Bazar residents.
We had also been flagging the issue of declaring the entire Bazar area as a commercial zone. We honestly feel that business and commercial activities should be allowed in these two areas of Thangal Bazar and Paona Bazar, and the present residents should move elsewhere probably in an enclave for the business community provided by the state. If we remember correctly, the State cabinet had earlier decided to move godowns from the core area to the periphery areas. Same could be done in the case of Bazar residents, in line with the concept of a Smart City.
The business lobby was certainly against the cases of pedestrian-only streets and declaring of the core area as a commercial zone. In most cities across the country and around the world, it has been made mandatory for every commercial establishment to create their own parking spaces. Pedestrian-only streets prioritize people and are typically most appropriate in corridors with commercial activity on both edges of the street.
The pedestrian volume is high in these streets and so vehicular traffic should be restricted. These streets offer opportunities for diverse activities such as shopping or sitting, dining or performing. When placed, designed, and maintained well, pedestrian-only streets become a destination in itself and result in economic benefits for adjacent businesses.
The night plaza introduced by the present government in its early days on the Kangla Pat stretch, in an effort to bring back night life in Imphal city can move over to these streets once construction of the Mall Road is finished.
Again, non-motorized transport could be introduced including cycling tracks besides the pedestrian-only movement in the core area. Roadside parking have been banned almost everywhere, in an effort to decongest the roads and facilitate free flow of traffic.
We are of the opinion that, roadside parking should be banned not only in the commercial zones, but in residential areas also. In many parts of Imphal, one will find vehicles parked in the main roads and leikai roads.
Perhaps, the time has come for the government and municipal authorities to enact a law to prohibit vehicle parking on all roads and to make it mandatory for every vehicle owner to have own parking spaces for their vehicles in their Ingkhols or rent commercial garages.