Agu Onyedikachi Dawn
One prominent feature of FCT Abuja is the pedestrian bridges across all the major roads especially at the city centres. Many of them are really beautiful sites to behold. For Abuja residents, the purpose of the bridge varies from one person to another. To some, they are life-saving monuments, yet to others, they are business centres for hawking and dispossessing defenceless users of their personal belongings.
Despite various reasons many adduced for avoiding to use the bridge, the consequences have been unimaginable, considering the high statistics of pedestrians that lost their lives or sustain permanent disability after being knocked down by fast moving vehicles on the major roads.
Investigations unravelled reasons residents prefer crossing the highways to using the pedestrian bridges, even when they know that crossing the highways is deadly. Some of the bridges that ugly incidents have been recorded include; Police Sign Board, Lugbe; Gwagwalada, Gwarinpa by Express; Maitama Nicon Junction and Apo.
A resident of Lugbe, Collins Edeh, said: “I don’t use the bridge as regularly as I should. Even though I am aware of the usefulness of the bridge, the position of some of the bridges are far from the bus stops especially the ones in Lugbe.
“When I am going across the road from my area, I don’t use the bridge because it is far. However, I try to use the bridge twice a week when I am going for my CDS but never at night.”
Another resident from Gwagwalada, Sheshi Bulus, admitted that he hardly uses the bridge: “I know it is unsafe to cross the highway, but I feel the pedestrian bridge is unnecessary since I can just run across the road rather than climbing up to the pedestrians.
“However, I use the bridge on an extremely busy highway but I always prefer to use the road directly when it’s less busy and less risky. The bridge I use mainly is in main town, Nicon Junction Bridge but the pedestrian bridge in Gwagwalada I run across the road, I can never use the bridge, and I am strict with it.”
Authorities have tried to curtail jaywalking in the city centres by demarcating roads using barbwire fences, kerbs and zebra crossing. However, this has not yielded any satisfactory results because most of the fences are pulled down with people crossing recklessly.
Most residents avoid using the bridge mostly at night. A resident of Bwari, Abdullahi, said: “Using the bridge is safer despite the distance but the danger of it is at night. Most of the pedestrian bridges don’t have light and are usually deserted so hoodlums use them to their advantages to rob anyone using the bridge at night.
“I was robbed some time ago at the Bannex pedestrian bridge. After the incident, I don’t use bridges anymore. I will rather keep dashing across the highways not minding the risk involved.”
Although some people would rather cross the highways than use a pedestrian bridge, some residents have strong belief in using the bridges no matter the time of day. A resident of Mabushi, Abah Rachel said: “Whenever I see a pedestrian bridge, I always make use of it. I mostly use the Gwarinpa by express and Maitama Nicon junction. I make use of these bridges no matter the time of day. I have never experienced any activity by hoodlums nor heard about it at night.
“I believe people still disregard using the pedestrian bridge because it takes a longer time to cross them than the roads. More bridges should be constructed to avoid reckless crossing of the road or most pedestrians will be left with no option than to use the bridges.”
A resident of Lugbe, Ajiri, explained: “I always use the bridge because of some experiences I have witnessed. Back then when I was in school, in front of my school gate this student was trying to cross the road rather than use the pedestrian bridge, which wasn’t quite far. While crossing, a vehicle on a very high speed hit and decapitated his whole hand instantly and flew. It was very frightening.
“At Area 3, I have equally witnessed twice pedestrians being crushed by oncoming vehicles and there’s a bridge not far from there but people still prefer to cross the road. These are enough to make me stay away from crossing the highways.
“I also think the reason people avoid the pedestrian bridges is because they are sited few meters away from where the taxis stop them to cross over. It is a discouraging factor and the time to use to walk to the bridge can be about 15 minutes. Climbing the bridge can also be cumbersome especially for ladies with heels and people not physically fit.”