Pedestrian bridges are architectural safety measures provided to eliminate the hazards and dangers pedestrians encounter while crossing roads in high traffic density areas. Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, is adjudged to be an ideal modern city, but unfortunately, the architectural master-plan is deficient in the provision of pedestrian bridges. In this report, JAMES UWEM examines the implications of the absence of the overhead walkways from most pedestrian traffic hot spots in parts of Abuja.
Pedestrian bridges are safety pathways constructed to help pedestrians cross from one to the other side of the road without having to dash across at the risk of being knocked down by speeding vehicles, and in addition to easing traffic. Therefore, it is logical to say that the primary essence of an overhead foot bridge is to save lives.
In countries where high premium is placed on life, pedestrian bridges are constructed at reasonable distance along the highways and at crowded spots on the city roads.
In Nigeria, where saving lives apparently has not attracted much of government priority, only a few hurriedly constructed pedestrian bridges are there on major highways and roads in the states and the federal capital territory. The absence of these safety foot bridges across the various states and Abuja, have invariably led to maiming and wanton loss of lives of many innocent Nigerians.
Abuja is famous for its network of good roads, most of the major ones - express ways spanning upwards of six lanes, but without corresponding number of pedestrian bridges.
The very wide and smooth roads make it irresistible and tempting for drivers to always drive along them at break-neck speed, and this speeding traffic therefore, forces the hapless pedestrians to take on a suicidal dash across the roads at any presumed opportunity, and at the risk of being hit by the speeding drivers. Many of such pedestrians have been sent to their early graves, while many others have been maimed.
For a city attested to be the fastest growing in Africa, with an estimated population of about four million people, 8o per cent of whom live on the outskirts, it is seen as an architectural error on the part of those who initiated the city’s master plan to have planned it with so much of architectural splendour, but highly deficient in overhead bridges for those without cars.
An aerial view and some statistical evaluation of Abuja, shows that the entire city has not more than 10 pedestrian bridges so far.
Also, the few available pedestrian bridges, though unevenly distributed, they are constructed mainly along the highways that lead in and out of the city, while roads within the main city are devoid of the life saving bridges.
Similarly, the numerous densely populated satellite towns have continued to exert pressure on the major highways as the unprecedented number of cars ply these roads, on a daily bases, from the satellite towns, are posing grave danger to pedestrians who are forced to dash across the roads Usain Bolt style.
Investigations by LEADERSHIPSUNDAY as well as statistics gathered from relevant government agencies and NGO’s indicate that not fewer than 100 pedestrians lost their lives in Abuja in the last two years. Analysts have yet to come to terms on why the authorities concerned are not bothered about the lack and complete absence of overhead bridges in some very high risk roads.
Officials of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), have averred that though it is ideal for every crowded spot (not exclusive to the highways), to be provided with pedestrian bridges, they should be constructed at reasonable intervals.
A further assessment of the situation shows that, the 13-kilometre Kubwa Expressway, which stretches up to the Kaduna-Madalla-Zuba expressway, has only five pedestrian bridges, despite the high population density people living in the not fewer than 10 satellite towns that dot the expressway.
The highway is the gateway that leads to and from Niger, Kaduna States. The Keffi-Nyanya-Asokoro highway is another gateway into Abuja, with the Nyanya asokoro axis spanning about five kilometers. This axis is where much of the Abuja City centre workers reside.
The towns include Nyanya, Karu, Jikwoyi, Maraba, etc . It is also one of the routes to and from Nasarawa and some other States in the North central. The highway, however has just two foot bridges only. The third major access road is the Yar’Adua Expressway, which first section leads to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport.
It has been given a phase-lift, and widened to a six-lane road, yet it has only three of these pedestrian bridges, the worst is that the road is divided by a dwarf-wall concrete median across the centre which makes pedestrian’ crossing cumbersome and terrifying as dashing across one side of the road to the concrete median (road divider) is just a first huddle, with climbing over the median as the second and crossing the other half of the road is the third hurdle.
The second phase is the axis which leads to the Eastern part of the country (through the Gwagwalada-Abaji-Lokoja)highway which is currently under construction. It cannot be said to have any overhead bridge.
While the foot bridges are inadequate on the Abuja expressways, the safety bridges are totally non-existent in virtually all the other city roads, yet there exist many dark spots that desire such bridges but have unfortunately caused the loss of several lives.
Places within the city that are deserving of the foot bridges are the Wuse market, the Wuye junction, the road between Area One junction and Area Three junction up to the Apo junction.
Also, the road stretch from Mabushi junction through Ministry of Works, VIO offices to Life camp has none. Similarly there is no pedestrian bridge on the Berger junction to the Kubwa express/Mpape road junction. Many of such dark spots that have claimed lives abound, yet the relevant government agencies, road construction firms have failed to be responsive to the plight of the people who get crushed to death in numbers due to the absence of the pedestrian bridges.
Just last week, a middle-age man, Johnson Akpata was knocked down by a speeding driver along the Mabushi-Life camp road, he died instantly. The same unpleasant incident happened close to Mpape junction, where a lady, Felicia Obi, was hit by another speeding vehicle. She also died instantly.
One surviving victim of the speeding/risky dash across the expressway incidents, a pure water seller, was hit by a taxi driver at the Wuse market axis, Mohammed Isa, had one of his legs severed in the accident and now lives on crutches. There are numerous other recorded and unrecorded incidents.
While government has not done enough, the apathy and height phobia exhibited by some Nigerians who persistently neglect the use of the foot bridges even where it is available, is inimical. On this premise, enforcement and punitive punishment (fines) by government on defaulting road users will help compel people to use the few overhead foot bridges maximally.
Also of note is the non-adherence to the Zebra Crossing signs on Abuja roads. The few bold ‘black and white lines’ Zebra crossing signs provided at some of the notable dark spots to assist pedestrians, unfortunately, are neither observed nor used the pedestrians and most of the drivers.
Investigations show that most of them do not understand that the signs interpret the need for motorists to give way to pedestrians to cross the road using the Zebra marking space.
The investigation further shows that more pedestrians have been knocked down at Zebra crossings. Relevant government agencies should therefore concentrate on the effective enlightenment of the people and enforcement of relevant laws in this direction.