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Abuja: A Tale Of Abandoned Pedestrian Bridges

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A typical accident and emergency care unit of  a Nigerian hospital  is usually bombarded with patients and horrific tales of pedestrian accidents on a regular basis, Christiana Nwaogu and Charles Aidogie write

The large population of the pedestrians in the city and its satellite towns , especially the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) who stand beneath, or some metres away from the bridges but will not utilise them for their safety, baffles everyone.

Sometimes , people are forced to ask ; is there some force in the vicinity of this pedestrians bridges that controls the movement of pedestrians, making them recalcitrant or blighting their capacity to do what is seemingly right by taking the bridges to cross to safety? The fundamental purpose for which these bridges were built?

In fact, the endless continuation of pedestrian fatalities at virtually the same pace, raises continued concerns about the nation’s alarming pedestrian death toll.

Disturbingly, the  high rate of pedestrian deaths comes as deaths from other types of traffic fatalities are dropping. This is even as

LEADERSHIP Sunday discovered that while improvements in vehicle safety make crashes safer for people inside cars — it is just as deadly for pedestrians. Shockingly, despite this,  several persons still prefer the Dash – To – Death.

Sadly, even the road barricades made of iron  to further prevent lazy road users from crossing these dangerous  roads have been either pushed aside or completely  damaged, just to allow them free passage to break rules that may cost them their lives.

Many road users seem to have forgotten that whenever pedestrian traffic meets vehicular traffic, opportunities for disaster often emerges.

Even when drivers and pedestrians are on their ‘best behavior’ – and even when intersections are designed well – accidents can still happen.

Why? Simply put, human beings did not evolve to drive cars, trucks, or motorcycles, so our ability to do things like gauge stopping distances of fast-moving cars is inherently poor.

Pedestrians who cross where they shouldn’t, walk along busy streets at night without reflective clothing, and engage in other acts of obvious stupidity put themselves at a higher risk.

LEADERSHIP  Sunday was at NICON Bridge where  70 percent  of pedestrians were  seen crossing the road including a corps member without using the bridge meant for that purpose.

During a chat with a pedestrian at NICON junction,  a man who simply gave his name as Mike said “Several lives have been lost in this country due to their refusal  to use constructed  bridges.

“They have even brought down the barricades erected to prevent them from crossing the road.”

Asked if he has at any time crossed the expressway, he answered “No. I obey laws so I don’t cross the road without using the bridge’’. Besides, it is unsafe, it is too risky. You may calculate the on – coming vehicle wrongly and the next thing is you are dead”, he added.

Anita, one of the law – abiding Nigerians who used the bridge told our reporter that, “I don’t cross the expressway. I use the bridge.” She narrated her experience in 2009 where a young woman carrying a baby in a kangaroo (Baby Pouch) was crossing the ever-busy Oshodi – Apapa expressway in Lagos.

The pouch’s hand (sic) got cut and the baby fell. While making an effort to quickly pick her baby, a vehicle sped by and the woman ran off the road for her safety, abandoning the baby. She said the vehicle ran over the baby , a memory that has refused to escape her mind.

She said,  “That experience is still fresh in my memory and I will never forget it. Since then I decided to always use a bridge . It was a real life lesson though in the hard way.”

A pedestrian, Uju Uzo, complained of the rate of death and permanent injuries inflicted on individuals at various junctions , especially during rush hours when people are trying to cross the road.

Uju, who claimed that some pedestrians are sometime absent-minded, queried why someone would be crossing such a busy highway and be absent-minded. “Some even use their phone while crossing the road. That is the height of carelessness,” she said.

She equally blamed some drivers , “We are aware that there are people who fear heights and some who will just prefer to cross through the expressway. They should be conscious of this and learn to reduce their speed while approaching busy junctions.

She said “The former FCT Minister, Bala Mohammed, heard our cry and constructed these pedestrian bridges but people have refused to use it, rather they prefer to risk their lives crossing the road.

“Before the construction of the bridge, innocent lives were being lost on a daily basis, including school children, pregnant women and even the physically-challenged.

“The most important thing now is for government to provide security at the bridges and intensify enforcement as it is being done in Mogadishu Cantonment (Abacha barracks). This they can do by positioning security agents at the foot of the bridge to ensure strict compliance by pedestrians.”

Another respondent, Barnabas Ikpat said, “I don’t believe there is any such force. No authority will build a pedestrian bridge with the sole aim of facilitating pedestrians crossing safely to the other side of the road,  but mischievously install some diabolism around it to pull away the pedestrians, making them to dash to their death  or physical impairment of various degrees. No authority will be so ruthless to do that.”

He said it is sheer impatience on the part of the risk-taking pedestrians that leads them to death or deformity. “You know, majority of us Nigerians are always in a hurry to do things or arrive at destinations, and we so prefer short cuts despite the risk involved.”

Solomon Isuwa, a civil servant said while some of the pedestrian bridges , especially the one adjacent Sheraton Hotel and Yar Adua Centre, seem  useless, many others seem to have been built far away from their proper locations, which is the possible convergence points of pedestrians intent on crossing the road, especially the one between Wuye junction and Finance Quarters  situated along  the popular Berger-Area 1 Expressway.

According to Isuwa, “This is why most of such pedestrians are lackadaisical in trekking the distance to the pedestrian bridges. The fact is that , yes, we may be educated, but generally most of us Nigerians prefer a strict method of law enforcement, to compel us to observe discipline and do what is right even if on a matter that is for our individual good.”

He said, “When soldiers at the Gowon Barracks observed that so many pedestrians were being knocked down near the pedestrian bridge I was telling you about, they caused a wire  fence to be constructed separating the two flanks of the expressway, making it impossible for anyone to risk dashing across.

“This, therefore, compelled pedestrians to take the bridge to cross. But the naughty pedestrians cut a wide hole through the wire, big enough for a man to pass through. A risk-taking pedestrian would just sneak through the hole like a goat and cross the road.”

The civil servant recalled: “When the soldiers observed this, they stationed a soldier who scares away any risk-taking pedestrians intent on sneaking through the wire, instead of taking the bridge.

Sometimes the soldier compelled the pedestrians to observe strict discipline by queuing up the bridge whatever their number,” he recalled.

Another local called Idibia admitted, “I am also a culprit sometimes, but it pains me seeing the way people destroyed many sections of the wire fence between NICON Junction and Banex pedestrian bridges, to ease their sneaking through like goats and dashing across the road, even with the pedestrian bridges just metres away from their points of crossing.”

Ngozi Shedrack who stays  at Mararaba narrated, “You know Nyanya/Mararaba is a densely populated area. So, because the pedestrian bridge is near the market, the population of people crossing the road is also dense. There are criminals who operate even on the bridge.

“I must tell you that many pedestrians do not use the pedestrian bridge. At a time, soldiers were stationed there, compelling pedestrians to use the bridge, and anyone caught just dashing across or sneaking through the wire fence would be made to do frog jump.”

A pedestrian, Mr. Paul Abba, expressed his displeasure over the poor discipline of some Nigerians. He suggested that government should introduce punitive measures against defaulters, otherwise people would continue to disregard the use of the bridges.

Speaking in the same vain, Oladele Olaide said “You know, this pedestrian bridges are provided by the government for the safety of pedestrians. In a situation whereby pedestrian bridges are built with plenty money and even the roads are barricaded around the pedestrian bridge, they have our safey at heart, so, people should use the pedestrian bridges.”

Suggesting efforts to be made by the government to curb the situation, he said ‘’You see, government has been working in synergy with one department they call Accident Control Unit (ACU). And this people have been working on the road, controlling people to use pedestrian bridges.

“If government should provide mobile courts and operational vehicles for those people, offenders will be arrested on this highway, people that are trying to indiscriminately violate the rules of pedestrian crossing, will be arrested and taken to mobile courts.”

In his view, Jude informed LEADERSHIP Sunday that some pedestrians have complained that the bridge was positioned a bit far from the bus stop,  hence, its irrelevance to them. We alight from vehicles and have to trek quite a distance to be able to utilise the bridge. You will agree with me that it’s very stressful. They should always put these factors into consideration. He used the pedestrian bridge situated in between Area 3 and 1 as a case study.

He corroborated that pedestrian bridges that are well utilised in Abuja are the ones at Mogadishu and Lungi barracks. This is not unconnected to the fear of  being punished by the stern looking military men who man check -posts situated beside such bridges.

Interestingly, even when no officer  is there to enforce the law, nobody dares to cross  the express. It was even noticed that unlike other barricades that has been forced opened by pedestrians for easy passage, that of the Mogadishu Cantonment is still intact as no part of it has been tampered with.

While LEADERSHIP Sunday is calling on governments to take concrete actions to improve the safety of pedestrians, it is important to point out that record has it that over 270, 000 pedestrians lose their lives on the world’s roads each year accounting for 22 percent of the total 1.24 million road traffic deaths.

Under the banner “Make Walking Safe”, the Second United Nations Global Road Safety Week (6-12 May) kicked off worldwide. With events registered in nearly 70 countries, the week seeked to draw attention to the needs of pedestrians; generate action on measures to protect them; and contribute to achieving the goal of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 to save 5 million lives.

Findings also revealed that 1.24 million road traffic deaths occur annually on the world’s roads, making road traffic injuries the eighth leading cause of death globally, and the leading cause of death for young people aged between 15 to 29 years.

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