They often say that in order to judge the scale of development in a country just take a look at its roads. To be honest, Lahore’s roads do not reflect the state of the rest of the country. As far as national standards are concerned, they are far superior. But, are they up to international standards? Well, that’s a different story. I’m not an urban planner, nor do I have a degree in architecture or any other related fields. However, even with my decidedly untrained eye, I’ve noticed a blatant disregard towards following international standards as far as the road network is concerned in Lahore. There are several examples of the sheer ineptitude, some of which I will highlight here, but my question is that if someone like myself can notice these glaring inconsistencies, what does that say about the elaborate urban planning commissions in the country, and in particular this city? The first and most important example that comes to mind is that of sidewalks. Yes, I understand that wider sidewalks would mean more encroachment by hawkers and street vendors. But my issue is not with the breadth of sidewalks. It’s with their basic design. Answer me this: how many sidewalks in Lahore are compatible with wheelchair users or people with disabilities? Okay, let’s widen the net and include elderly people. Surely, there are hundreds of thousands of elderly people in Lahore, and not all of them can afford to travel in luxury cars. Many have to use the sidewalks at some point in their journeys, and face a lot of difficulties due to poor planning from the authorities in charge. Then there is the new MM Alam Road that stands out as a shining beacon in the dark crowd of haphazardly constructed roads. I admit, when I drove through the newly redesigned part back in 2013, my heart nearly burst with optimism. Here, finally, was a road in our beautiful city of Lahore which actually had wide sidewalks which people could easily use, but more importantly, the curb stones were laid at the acceptable height of six inches. Sure, the international, or should I say Western, standard is around four inches, but still, I remember feeling incredibly proud of my city’s urban planning division for constructing a road that adhered to universal standards. When constructing a sidewalk (again, this is my view as an observer who has long compared the roads of Pakistan with those in the western world), the height of the curb stone is important as well. However it is absolutely vital that when there is a break in the sidewalks, like in the event of a driveway or adjoining road, the sidewalk should level out with the ground in a gentle slope. For people with disabilities, this ensures that their wheelchair will not topple over, and can easily move forward. In Lahore, let alone a gentle slope, there is no slope at all. The curb stones are rounded into giant steps, so that anyone on a wheelchair would undoubtedly be stuck on one end of the sidewalk. And these curbs are more than a foot high in places, so if the person on the wheelchair is lucky enough to have a companion pushing them, even the strongest of them could not lift a heavy wheelchair up and down one-foot-high curbs multiple times. It’s back breaking work, and frankly, unneeded, for if the planners possessed even the basic acumen required for urban planning, they wouldn’t subject their city’s pedestrians to this torture. Not many sidewalks in Lahore are compatible for wheelchair users or people with disabilities. If city planners possessed even the basic acumen required for urban planning, they wouldn’t subject their city’s pedestrians to this torture I’ve lost count of the times I have seen pedestrians walking on the roads, especially elderly ones, only so they can avoid climbing those giant, boulder sized curb stones. While they may be trying to avoid worsening the condition of their knees, given the careless arrogance of the people behind the steering wheel in Lahore, walking on the road is akin to dancing with death. I admit I foolishly raised my expectations again when I saw that the Liberty road (also known as Noor Jehan Road) was being revamped. Yes, they had focused on widening the sidewalks, but my heart fell when I saw the same giant curb stones and that complete disregard for people who may use wheelchairs. I mean, how could they possibly ignore people with disabilities? Are they not important enough to venture out onto the fabled sidewalks of Lahore? It also raises the question as to what is being taught in our universities. If a layman like me can pinpoint these gross irregularities, the urban planners should be able to do the same in seconds. And yet, the construction of roads continues the same way unabated. It only goes on to show how much we, as a city, care for our elderly and disabled. Only time will tell if and when some sense is knocked into us, and we finally start caring for the entire community, and not just one specific segment. The writer is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario and Durham University. He has studied Creative Writing from Oxford University, Writer’s Bureau UK and Bishopsgate Institute London. He has also studied novel writing and editing at the prestigious Faber Academy in London Published in Daily Times, July 1st 2018.