MUSAFFAH // Eric Mabale's journey to worship on Sundays requires a considerable amount of faith. To hail a taxi to Abu Dhabi after he finishes work as a car mechanic, Mr Mabale, 27, must sprint across 10 lanes of heavy, high-speed traffic heading either towards the motorways for Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Tarif or into the Musaffah industrial area.
"It is very hard. Very dangerous," the Filipino said after running across the road. Yet during morning and evening rush hours, residents line the road and wait, sometimes for more than five minutes, for a break in a steady stream of vehicles. They then scurry across the first five lanes to the median, cut through some shrubbery, and, if they are fortunate, bolt safely across the remaining five lanes.
Mr Mabale is not alone in his worry of crossing the motorway, called "bank street" by residents. Police say it is the "number one hot spot" for accidents and another Abu Dhabi road in desperate need of footbridges that provide a safe crossing. Pedestrian bridges are planned for the area along the Abu Dhabi-Musaffah-Tarif Road as part of 14 such structures authorities said should be built in Abu Dhabi by next summer.
They will be air-conditioned and include lifts, according to Abdullah al Shamsi, director of roads and infrastructure for Abu Dhabi Municipality. The "bank street" is not scheduled to get a bridge, according to a map released by the municipality during the Abu Dhabi Cityscape Exhibition in April. Mr al Shamsi could not be reached for comment yesterday. The road is lined by banks and money exchanges, car repair shops, restaurants and a post office, providing plenty of reasons for pedestrians to cross. Yet the traffic signal nearest to the cluster of businesses is hundreds of metres away.
Most pedestrians choose to make the dangerous dash, sometimes in groups of seven or eight. Some lose the gamble and pay with their lives, according to police and first-hand accounts. No statistics specific to that stretch of road were available, but 26 people were killed crossing roads in Abu Dhabi in the first 71 days of this year, according to an official tally. "I have seen too many [people] hit by cars here," Mr Mabale said. "Injured and sometimes dead."
Ashraf, from Kerala, who washes cars for a living, said he had seen the remains of unfortunate pedestrians struck down on the road. The posted limit is 60kph but cars were clocked by The National's radar travelling about 100kph. "I see an Egyptian guy, two pieces," said Ashraf, 35. "One time, a cyclist, same like that." He said he had to cross the road daily to get to and from his job. Mr Mabale, meanwhile, said he must cross it sometimes up to six times a day to purchase parts for his shop.
Meanwhile, Kanwal Suleman, 28, who works at the Al Falah Exchange on the Musaffah-bound side of the road, said he had just weaved through traffic to deposit some cash at the Dubai Islamic Bank on behalf of his employer. "I think they must build two over-bridges, because the signal is very far," he said. "A person who is coming from that side, he has to walk almost 30 minutes to go to the signal." Capt Adel Mahmound, manager of traffic and patrolling in Musaffah, agreed that pedestrian walkways were needed for the road, as well as the bridge near the Emirates Driving School and on the motorway near the Delma Mall and a Carrefour, where Capt Mahmound said a pedestrian was struck on Sunday. He said pedestrians were hit every day in Musaffah and that the "banks area" is the "hottest spot" for vehicle-pedestrian accidents.
He said his department had proposed pedestrian flyovers. "We know the road engineering department has plans to build them, but they are starting with Abu Dhabi," he said. "We don't know when it will be our turn." In the meantime, Capt Mahmound said, police relied on campaigns against jaywalkers to educate pedestrians about the dangers of crossing the road. Police have handed out 757 Dh200 (US$54) fines to jaywalkers this year and will launch another campaign next week that will run throughout the summer.
Drivers said the pedestrians running in front of their vehicles were a major concern. Police "are giving [pedestrians] fines for crossing the road, and the very next day they are crossing the road again", said Murad Ali, a taxi driver from Pakistan. "This is a dangerous area in Musaffah." email@example.com * With additional reporting by Haneen Dajani