IN major cities across the world, pedestrian bridges are constructed to enable pedestrians to cross busy highways, so as to prevent accidents and deaths.
Observers, however, note that most Nigerians, especially pedestrians, view the bridges as aesthetic structures and locations for buying and selling, rather than means of ensuring their safety.
They note that people, who are obviously in haste without regard for factors such as their safety, often prefer dashing across expressways to using pedestrian bridges whenever they are crossing to the other side of the roads
They add that the people resort to climbing pedestrian bridges, only if they want to buy anything from the make-shift traders who display their wares on the bridges.
The concerned observers lament that the practice is even rampant in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), where the law enforcement agents have not been able to prevent it.
Mr Jola Egunsola, a bookseller on one of the pedestrian bridges in Dei-Dei, a suburb of FCT, argued that many pedestrians even crossed expressways with earphones glued to their ears.
But a pedestrian, simply identified as Joy, said that Egunsola’s sentiments were borne out of his interest in getting more customers — pedestrians using the bridge.
Joy, nonetheless, conceded that crossing the expressway amid distractions such as holding baggage and answering telephone calls, among others, often resulted in accidents involving pedestrians.
“Many residents choose to risk their lives crossing roads right beside the pedestrian bridges, instead of using the bridges.
“During rush hours, for example, people cross like a swarm of bees, forcing speeding vehicles to pause or stop for them.
“There was even a case of a middle-aged woman who was recently knocked down by a car beside one of the bridges in Area 1, Abuja, while she was crossing the road; the woman later died,’’ she said.
Observers, therefore, seek to know the efforts of the relevant law enforcement agencies at ensuring that the public, particularly pedestrians, are enlightened and guided on the use of the bridges.
In an apparent reaction to this, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) recently announced that pedestrians caught while crossing expressways in the FCT without using the bridges would be sanctioned.
Mr Muhammed Hassan, the FRSC Sector Commander in FCT, said that the non-use of pedestrian bridges across the city was quite worrisome.
He promised that the commission would embark on a rigorous public enlightenment campaign to underscore the need for residents to always use pedestrian bridges.
In the same vein, Mr Wobin Gora, the FCT Head of Operations of FRSC, said that the commission would recommend stiffer penalties for unsafe road crossings in Abuja.
According to him, road crossing by not using pedestrian bridges has increased the number of fatalities arising from road accidents in recent times.
“In line with this, the police are to arrest pedestrians who force their way through the wire fence erected to discourage unsafe road crossings, ’’ he said.
Gora, nonetheless, promised that the FRSC would encourage the public to use pedestrian bridges via enlightenment, public awareness programmes and persuasion, among others.
Observers, however, reiterate that pedestrians in the FCT still cross expressways, regardless of their proximity to pedestrian bridges without regard for their safety.
They note that the FCT Administration (FCTA), as part of efforts to prevent accidents and deaths on expressways within the city, recently awarded contracts for the construction of six more pedestrian bridges in strategic locations across the FCT.
According to them, the bridges are to complement the existing bridges near the Mogadishu Barracks Junction and those on the Abuja-Keffi expressway, among others.
However, Mr John Ibe, a civil servant in FCT, noted that pedestrians preferred crossing the expressways without using the pedestrian bridges because most of them were impatient, especially in the early hours when they were rushing to resume work.
“Also, there are those people who are simply lazy; it is a very serious problem, seeing that lives are often lost,’’ he said.
A soldier at the Mogadishu Barracks, who preferred to be known as Bala, said that pedestrians, who refrained from using pedestrian bridge to cross expressways, were very careless and undisciplined.
He recalled that in 2011, residents who refused to use pedestrian bridges to cross roads were given light punishments like “frog jump’’ and “press-ups.’’
“These measures did not work because every day, you would find people still doing the same thing again.
“But now, an idea came that barriers should be erected near pedestrian bridges; that is helping a lot now to discourage people from crossing the road without using the bridges,’’ he said.
Irrespective of this argument, some residents observe that the locations of the bridges were faulty, insisting that they are far from the meeting points of pedestrians.
“The bridges are meant to be used by pedestrians at junctions or by bus-stops when they alight from vehicles; but some of the bridges are located very far away from such places.
“When people calculate the distance they have to walk to climb the bridge, the risk to cross the road becomes an alternative,’’ Mrs Juliet Adeola, a resident in FCT, said.
Sharing similar sentiments, Ms Uzoma Anele, another FCT resident, said the time and stress involved in walking from bus stops to the bridges spurred some pedestrians’ decision to ignore the bridge and cross the expressway, irrespective of the risks involved.
In her view, Mrs Rosemary Joseph, a civil servant, said that she would not mind the location of the bridges, adding, however, that had a phobia for height.
“Since I cannot help the situation, I have no other option than ignoring pedestrian bridges while crossing highways,’’ she added.
All in all, observers insist that tangible efforts should be made to enforce traffic rules regarding the use of pedestrian bridges, adding that relevant agencies should also intensify efforts to enlighten the public on the hazards of crossing expressways without using pedestrian bridges.
They, however, reject all the reasons adduced by pedestrians for not using the bridges, insisting that there is no justification whatsoever for flouting the rules.