Business on pedestrian day

The central secretariat complex outside the Tashichhodzong wore a deserted look on pedestrian day, this afternoon. No doubt, our civil servants were busy in their own offices, working, since they wouldn’t be able to attend the otherwise unending number of meetings that plague our government.

Norzin Lam, Thimphu’s main street, also wore a deserted look this afternoon. I saw students walking home and taxis zipping around, but I saw little else. Shops were empty. And some, like these shops on upper Norzin Lam, were closed for business.

There are many things wrong with pedestrian day. And one of the most damaging is its effect on businesses. Restaurants, grocery shops, hardware stores, commercial offices, even the small pann shops, are reeling under the effects of Pedestrian day. That’s why, during question hour this morning, I’d wanted to ask the minister for economic affairs this question:

Will the Hon’ble Minister please report on the amount of business that has been lost in Thimphu because of the implementation of “Pedestrian Day”? Furthermore, will the Hon’ble Minister kindly explain the Royal Government’s measures to facilitate business on “Pedestrian Day”?

However, my question was not included for discussion in today’s question hour. Perhaps the minister for economic affairs was of the opinion that my question was not relevant. And, perhaps, he convinced the Hon’ble Speaker to reject my question. But the question remains: is pedestrian day affecting businesses?

The government cannot continue to ignore this question. The question is relevant. And it is important. But it’s not just Thimphu businesses which are suffering – businesses in other dzongkhags, especially those in the South, are also reeling from the impact of pedestrian day.

 

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  1. Respected OL,
    I appreciate you for bringing this topic in this forum but i request you too watch out in the evening sides where you can witness the busy city. In capital the usually the shops are open from 10 to 11 a.m

    on the other hand your so concerned of our business people and taxi drivers, how about the common people in capital who at times are having tough time even to manage city bus fares. On pedestrain days the city buses are full in the morning and evening and there is need to improve the system.City bus service had been immense help to students, middle income and lower income group people. Many are dependent for such service. In this regard the service need to improve further for the benefits of the users.In my opinion you have failed to raise these concerns and in fact you have been complaining of city buses carrying extra passengers forgeting the reason why people squeezing in.

  2. For a country like Bhutan which has long way to go to develop a working economic, pausing the movement of vehicles especially during the working hrs even if it is for a single day is not appreciable in my personal opinion. There are many activities related to direct movement, and others which are indirect. Government should not interfere with personal life style unless it is criminal or negative to the society.

    The private sector are not just those shops in the town. A capital city has to buzz with activities, we are living in the 21st century and sometimes talking of telemedicine or tele-conference, however, are we rational by freezing all vehicle movement during working hrs? even if it is 1 day per week?

    Plant a tree, flowers or conduct campaign for cleanliness, construct a basketball court, volleyball court, a couple of more football grounds, tennis court etc, initiate various tournaments, athletic meets, these will yield a conducive atmosphere for the society for a healthier future. Yes, get rid of dogs from the road/ footpath too. I would not blame a teacher if a student fails in his class, we have to have all types of people so that the differences exist and we need those differences in a society for competition.

    However, it is important now to upheld this “pedestrian day” and come to know in reality the impact and consequences, an assessment of the same after about a couple of month especially by the end of the monsoon would provide a clear picture.

  3. TrueDukpa says:

    I like the idea of pedestrian day, it not only promotes healthy walking but also reduces other harmful effect on our fragile environment. But I what I dislike about it is:

    1. Allowing taxis to ply. The number of taxis plying up and down and the taxis that come to do business as far as from Wangdue and Punakha and Paro is as good as the number of vehicles that ply on a normal day.

    2. Not having enough and adequate public transport system especially city bus and not reaching to places where it should.

    3. I have seen traffic police and RSTA personnel making exceptions to vehicles with CD and BG plates.

    4. Armed forces vehicles carrying people reaching destination twice as many times as it wouldn’t in normal day.

    5. I have also observed some of the private vehicles; Pardo and Landcruiser alike displaying “On Authorised Duty” and plying. Naturally, Dashos, Secretaries, Directors and people in big positions are exempted from this day even if they drive BP (smaller) vehicles.

    So as we can see, just like any other Rules in Bhutan, even this rule has rooms for maneuver and flexibilities and just like many, I too am not surprised and many such more Rules will come in the future…

  4. On an average I will be spending at least Nu. 1200-1500 for the taxi fare in one month because of “pedestrian day” plus the inconvenience.
    I would like to ask government, whether, this has in any way helped save environment and reduce fuel import?

    I take taxi ride not because I cannot walk but because I have little kids going school.

  5. Pedestrian says:

    Exactly San. The government should explain in tangible terms, not wishful thinking, how and by how much, pedestrian day has saved the environment and reduced the fuel import.On the other hand, one day of making business come to a halt all across the country could run into millions and in a year may be billions. It will be interesting if some economists do some study on this. May be NSB, MoEA or central bank could do also.How come our businesses are keeping quite on this?

  6. For those of you who feel walking is good- who stopped you from walking all this while and why should you walk only because someone asks you to? To me the whole idea is nonsense and doesn’t serve any purpose.

  7. guardian says:

    If only people with kids in Thimphu realized that school going children in our far flung villages walk for 3 to 4 hours everyday to school and back home, then only will they realize how fortunate they are and they don’t even have the option of taking a taxi or the local bus. So please make them walk once a week at least, so that they will all grow up to be healthy boys and girls.

  8. Hi guardian, r u kidding?
    Can a child who is is barely 6 years old can walk to school and home alone about a km without any anyone guiding him?
    Can a 3 year old daughter walk to day care center and back home without any one beside her?

    If you can answer these two questions, I will buy your argument.

    In any case we do not want any one to dictate us whether we should walk to drive.

  9. gamingumin says:

    guardian

    How does our kids walking to school in Thimphu once a week help the kids in far flung villages who walk 3-4 hours every day? Rather isn’t it the government’s responsibility to solve the problem like by building boarding schools for the village kids?

  10. gamingumin says:

    And instead the government wants to build education city for foreign students.

  11. guardian says:

    gaminguin,

    Who said that it helps, what I am saying is that kids in our villages walk 3 to 4 hours everyday, so kids having to walk to school in Thimphu once a week should be looked at in that perspective.

    san,

    I understand your predicament, however it is also true that kids as young as 6 years do walk to school for 3 to 4 hours in our villages. As for your three old kid, you are lucky that you can afford to send them to a day care center, so it is obvious that you can afford to pay the cab fare too, such luxuries, unfortunately are not available to our kids in the villages.

    The bottom line is that we expect people to sacrifice a bit of their own comfort for the larger good of the community.

  12. Concerned Citizen says:

    Respected OL,
    Can we evaluate the Impact of the Pedestrain day from the economic prospective. And compare with the benefit of the pedestrain day.

    We dont know the effect (positive or negetive) of this policy, so as a opposition party I think it would be good if we initiate this. If the impact is negetive we can argue, if the impact is positive we can appreciate the policy.

  13. guardian wrote:
    The bottom line is that we expect people to sacrifice a bit of their own comfort for the larger good of the community.

    Sacrifice what?
    And What community are you talking about?
    Like me, there are thousands parents who are undergoing these inconvenience + extra money for taxi.
    We are not benefiting anything out of this ‘Pedestrian day” nor are we contributing towards saving environment. Ultimately people like us having no choice ride taxi.

    We demand more explanation from the government how the “Pedestrian day” has helped us.
    By now, third Pedestrian day already being observed, government must be having some facts and figures to convince us…

  14. Concerned Citizen says:

    Dear San,
    Yes we need more facts and figures.
    I personally will not mind walking every day if I have some facts explained to me.

    But we need evaluation, facts etc. I dont want to be a laughing stock in front of International Audience if we cant tell them the impact of the pedestrain day when asked. Though it sounds novel at first instance we need to know what it is doing to the economy (good, bad, ugly), health, environment.

  15. khengpai_olo says:

    from kol:
    dofubom wrote:

    “If the OL had raised this issue yes it was ideed worth. But he raised other believe it or not issues like asparagrass, gyalposhing scam(still under investigation)etc which fired on him back by heavy weights of DPT. Therefore, it is always a priority to choose the right topics for debate in the highest decision making body(NA).”

    hon’ble OL for views and comments la

  16. Dear all,

    I am surprised at the attitude of people like ‘guardian’ in our society. The attitude that ‘it used to be like this in our time’ OR ‘it happens like this in our villages’ is not going to solve the problem nor help us join the league of developing nations and certainly doesn’t make us responsible citizen. The logic that our children in villages do not get basic facilities doesn’t mean that our other children who are born in town have to also face the same difficulties. In villages also, once the development and the facilities will be there I am sure children there will also need not walk for long distances.

    The issue here is different…Issue is:-

    1. How does forceful walking/moving in taxi helps environment?

    2. How long will this go on (considering the soon to hit monsoon)?

    3. Who all are affected???

    4. More important: Who all are NOT affected??????

    I would love to be with government or any ‘guardian’ to support the cause of environment/national health care/equating town children to village children, etc, etc… But please be sane and logical in giving out your mind and more importantly implementing policies.

    Just a thought…

  17. I too find Pedestrian day a very irrational and stupid idea. Better to have a “Prayer Day” for our country than “Pedestrian Day” if our government really finds it necessary to have a “P Day”. :-))

  18. Gomezzz says:

    I have supported our OL almost on every issue but i feel this is one issue on which i would like to take on Govt’s side.
    Yes, there are rooms for improvement. We can do it better & in more systemic way.
    I’m in for it.

  19. Truth_is_Buddha says:

    Good intentions should be also implemented in a good way; not force it down on other’s throats. Pedestrian day has perhaps made most people poorer by couple of thousands each month. Is this worth it for just promoting a hype?

  20. thinley says:

    First, were all shops along Norzin Lam closed? If so, good! This is an opportunity to implement one of the long abandoned rules to protect worker exploitation in shops and ensure low income employees in shops and hotels have at least one day of rest in a week.

    Regarding business loss on that day. On the inaugural pedestrian day, I was in town and noticed most of the parking areas were already full with cars in the morning. I dont think they would be the shoppers… maybe the shop owners themselves?. If people had something to buy that day, people will patronise shops closer to their homes/work, or they’ll come back the next day. In the end i dont think there is a net loss in the economy.

    For me, Pedestrian day is a welcome start. Its a start towards many more steps needed to urgently address growing problems of urbanisation. Our living environment in Bhutan is increasingly becoming noisy, congested, restless and violent. We will be a largely urbanised society in a decade or two and I feel we are going down the wrong path based on how we design, build and manage our urban areas.

    It is also an opportunity to speak out and support pedestrians and passengers who depend on taxis and public transport. We have more pedestrians and public transport users than people who drive cars with low occupancy and use up more space on the road and pollute the air we breathe.

    Pedestrian day is a start, but even this needs improvement. We need basic bus schedules for every stop, increased buses services especially to connect schools. We also seriously need to control the unreasonlably high taxi fares (nu 360 per day to drop a child to school and back based on Nu90/trip from town to Motithang).

    On Pedestrian day, even with the rotation system, it is very clear that there are too many taxis for this profession to be economically sustainable. However, in usual fashion of bucking the trend, basic economic principles do not apply in Bhutan even with over supply of taxis. The taxi drivers, who have the worst road etiquette, not to mention being eve-teasers and being rowdy in the taxi parking, set arbitary prices and run to ministers whenever anything is attempted to protecti passengers who need to use taxis out of necessity.

  21. With me, i alys loved walking, and on tuesdays, i dont have to wait by the roadside for the cars to scarce out or stop to let me pass by…

    and restaurant business!!!
    on other days i pack my own lunch. but on tuesdays, i go to restaurants along with others for a lunch out.

  22. I still don’t get the idea of this Pedestrian day. I am not residing in Thimphu and my concern is, suppose i drive from Sarpang to Thimphu on this particular day and my host lives at Motithang, how do i get there? Do I have to park on the outskirts of the city and walk all the way with my luggage? Is this rule still valid on the rainy days?

  23. I like it because I usually try to walk to work everyday anyway – but implementing a pedestrian day suddenly like this on a working day without an adequate public transportation system in place seems a little crazy.

    I suspect the real motivation actually has more to do with the rupee crunch (reducing costly fuel imports) than the environment – though that makes a perfect excuse.

    I notice government employees who drive taxis in their spare time are taking the day off every second Tuesday (depending on their license plate number) to get some of the lucrative takings.

    School children should be enrolled in the schools closest to where they live so they can easily walk to school and don’t have to be transported all across town to get there.

  24. Hi OL, Enough is enough. Your negative thoughts are well understood. Let me tell you again, there is no policy that pleases everyone. Even if you serve rice and pork, the vegeterians will complain. So, certain groups of people will complain for the pedestrian day. But, it is well appreciated by His majesty the king as it benefits the nation.

  25. Concerned Citizen says:

    In defence to OL:

    OL has never said pedestrian day is bad I suppose, he has said there is no evidence that it is good either.

    We as a citizen need to know why such policy is good if it is good.

    To get the best out of everything there has to be challenges and critism and that is what our honorable OL is rightfully doing and what he says is not at all negetive. It is healthy critism.

  26. Is Ol going to continue with his malacious remarks on all Tuesdays? Is it serving any purpose? Is every pedestrian day a different one that OL finds new criticisms to post here?

  27. What is motto of DPT pedestrain day. May DPT trying to garneir vote from the taxi drivers increaing population taxi day by day. If it is so one of the trick of DPT may be failling. Because today i asked one of the Taxi driver. enjoy this is your day but he redicously says business is better in other days than pedestrian day.

  28. Druk Yul says:

    As a bonafide citizen I think we have every right to ask the government as to why we are forced to follow such rules when they break themselves. Why should the RSTA and Traffic police drive vehicle when they fine the others on that day (P-day). They are the law enforcer. Infact this is creating room for malpractice of everything (Private vehicles etc). If taxi’s are allowed as odd and even to ply in town why not the private vehicles as odd and even? We already did this. RSTA and Traffic Police what do you say about the speed limit of the EXPRESS way as 50km/hr. Did it save any green fencing along the express way? Did RSTA and Traffic police made any awareness to fine vehicles plying in the highway? I haven’t seen a sign showing not to overtake or a sign showing the speed limit. I think you cannot fine people driving in highway because he has over taken a car. I think all the concern officials lack to provide awareness to the public. It’s time we discuss before implementing anything. Lastly I don’t like the idea of forcing P-day to a citizen.

  29. I walk mostly to office, i don’t own no car. But come on!! Pedestrian day is not practical. It is a crazy pro-communist idea. Very insensible !

    It just make me doubt on such policy makers’ intelligence. Our Lyonpos and those policy makers are rich people (On Tuesdays, they are often seen escorted by their patang/bag/etc carriers) This policy of pedestrian day is a perfect example of how unaware and unconcerned our policy makers are of the common man’s problems.

    People face real difficulties, with no additional city buses, people have to take taxis. For people who live far away or people with small kids, there is additional costs involved. Business is low; it is greatly impacted by this pedestrian day, eventually it will sum up to major depreciation in the growth of our economy.

    We are already facing problem with trade deficit- low exports, which is the main cause for the rupee crunch. And this pedestrian day is even more dangerous, rather than any good.

    Please remove this pedestrian day for our country’s good!!

  30. The Government is ****
    The Rules are ****
    Democracy is ****
    I seriously wonder sometimes where all you cynics have come from. Where were you pre 2008?

  31. Druk Yul says:

    I don’t know how long the so call pedestrian day will go on. This really irritates me. Expected some changes might take place after the National Assembly but all unproductive talks going and not a word about the “Pedestrian Day”. Tax was the only topic in the national assembly. Trying to tax everything not knowing the end results. I just wonder how much million we have lost because of the Pedestrian Day (i.e. transportation charges, detention charges, etc to the citizens ) of all is the human comfort which cannot be measured. The only aim we all have is to have our own car to reach anywhere at our convenient time and I feel this is already deprived. Please don’t force us. We are never happy with the so call “Pedestrian Day “.

  32. Sangye Wangdi says:

    This is exciting to elite groups but meaningless to the general public because for them every day is pedestrian day.

  33. Rainbow says:

    The Executive Order reads ” … all Tuesdays henceforth, will be observed as the Pedestrians’ Day throughout the country, particularly in major towns.” Then why the rule is applied strongly even in remote areas where there are hardly any car that plies on the remote roads like Dala stuck between remote areas of Dagana & Dagapela. Poor Dala … Now next question question is “which are major towns?” What about the small towns that does not have a single taxi … How do we commute when the system is not in place…. The order is interpreted in every way the enforcer likes….. irrespective of situation, environment, weather conditions, social obligations and difficulties one was going through at that particular time of Every Tuesday losses its essence and importance of the Day. Why not have once in a year and all Bhutanese and everyone residing in Bhutan observe the Day in full force, enthu and dedications to the Day.

  34. Pedestrian day is a good idea, because it provides a way for people to be more healthy. What are the disadvantages?

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