ABU DHABI // Pedestrians are risking their lives, as well as being fined, by running across a busy road in the capital after three footbridges were removed as part of construction works.
The bridges in front of Abu Dhabi Mall were pulled down to allow infrastructure work in the area, leaving a nearby traffic signal as the only safe place to cross. But jaywalkers are choosing to ignore the signal and instead dash between traffic.
People living near by said temporary crossings should have been installed after the bridges were removed.
“The pedestrian bridges in Tourist Club Area, also know as Al Zahiyah, have been dismantled to initiate some modernisation projects in the area but temporary measures should be done for people’s safety,” said Ramesh Menon, an Abu Dhabi resident for more than two decades.
Jaywalking is illegal and offenders face fines of Dh200 if caught. Despite this, The National saw more than 100 people cross the road in front of the mall in just 30 minutes.
“Instead of crossing at the adjacent traffic signal, many people put their lives in danger,” Mr Menon said. “Pedestrians have to abide by traffic rules and follow the clearly marked crossings at the signal.”
He also urged motorists to be extra cautious while driving through the area.
Last year, Abu Dhabi Municipality announced it would be installing 12 pedestrian bridges in the city and suburbs. But as the new bridges have been built, older ones have been torn down by the municipality to make way for new developments.
Jaywalking is dangerous and several pedestrians have been killed by cars as a result. The most high-profile case occurred on June 29, 2009, when Shaikha Al Mansouri, 4, and her sisters Damayer, 6, and Mariam, 7, were killed trying to reach Carrefour near Sheikh Zayed Sports City. The girls and their nanny were hit by a speeding driver.
Median fences, footbridges, mid-block signals, speed humps and speed zone control markings have been installed across the UAE to make raods safer for pedestrians.
Tahirul Islam, a Bangladeshi, said he knew it was against the law to cross roads at undesignated areas, but argued that if the traffic signal was red and no cars were coming there was no problem.
“It’s not a big issue. When the signal turns red I cross,” he said.
Pakistani Mursaleen Norullah said jaywalking was a common sight in the capital. “Here, everyday people don’t listen to anybody and just cross like that. Even when the bridges were there many people broke the traffic rules and crossed from unspecified places. I think some police official should stand there in civilian dress and start issuing fines to those jaywalking. That’s the only solution to control jaywalkers,” Mr Norullah said.
Pedestrians often claim that being in a hurry is a valid reason for not crossing at the correct spot and running through traffic.
Emirati Abo Hamza said he usually crossed roads at traffic signals. “Sorry, I was in hurry. Usually I cross at the signal.”
A Filipina, who did not want to be named, said: “Generally, I take the signal but sometimes when I’m in a hurry I cross from here.”
Abu Dhabi Municipality did not respond to requests for comment.