Jaywalkers need real alternatives

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed’s Washington visit reinforces an already favourable tone

People jaywalking in front of Abu Dhabi Mall after the pedestrian bridge have been removed. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
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Few things cause as much anxiety to those driving in cities as jaywalkers. Especially in some of the more crowded city-centre streets in Abu Dhabi, a driver could look one way for a split second, only to find a pedestrian dashing in front of them from the other direction. If both are lucky, the screeching of brakes will be the worst thing to happen. Many are not so lucky.

From the pedestrian’s point of view, these are risks worth taking, especially if the only safe and legal place to cross is far away. As the summer begins, that risk will only increase, as pedestrians seek the shortest route out of the heat. And, as The National’s story yesterday explains, one of the worst affected places in the capital for jaywalking is outside Abu Dhabi Mall.

There is of course a peculiar convergence of circumstances in that particular area. With construction work ongoing in that area for most of the past decade, residents and visitors have dealt with the disruption for a long time and found work-arounds.

Now, with the three footbridges removed for further construction work, there is only one place to cross, meaning many – this newspaper counted more than 100 in just 30 minutes on a recent visit – choose to run across the road.

The solution is not to fine these people. Punishing jaywalkers works when the risks are extreme – running across the E11, for example – or when there are easily accessible alternatives. But while there is an alternative outside the mall, it is hardly easily accessible, and hundreds will choose the very human, but very risky, strategy.

A more workable solution must be found. Outside Abu Dhabi Mall, temporary crossings should be installed, until the construction is complete. More broadly, a pedestrian-focused approach needs to be taken to avoid jaywalkers.

The ultimate goal must be to make Abu Dhabi more walkable, to encourage more people to use buses or walk between locations, whatever the weather. The only way to do that is to provide pedestrians with safe, easy ways to cross roads. Both adjectives matter.