ABU DHABI // Many of the capital's major road junctions will be revamped to improve pedestrian safety, the municipality said yesterday. In the first phase of a citywide plan, four junctions on the Corniche are being drastically redesigned to make streets more suited to pedestrians and cyclists.
At the same time, contractors have started repainting the first of 165 zebra crossings around the island at a cost of Dh7.5 million (US$2m). Planners hope this will eliminate confusion about whether the crossing points are still in use, while improving the city's image. The work at the Corniche will see clay coloured pedestrian crossing with white striped pavers installed at intersections to improve access to the public beach.
Traffic calming measures, such as a speed table linking the pavement kerb with the central reservation, will be put in place and the waiting areas widened and made more accessible. Many of the changes will be applied at other junctions in the coming months. The initiatives are part of the emirate's plan to make the city easier and safer to walk around. The dangers were made evident earlier this year when an elderly French tourist on a stopover during a cruise was run down and killed by a speeding motorist on a pedestrian crossing in front of the Marina Cafe on the Corniche.
In June, three Emirati sisters were struck and killed while crossing Airport Road in front of the Carrefour supermarket with their nannies. Their deaths prompted The National to launch its Road to Safety campaign. There were 26 pedestrians killed crossing Abu Dhabi's roads in the first 71 days of this year, while 117 were injured. Last year, 63 people were fatally struck by cars. Many of the island's zebra crossings have become severely faded over the years.
Ahmed Mahfoud, the head of the road maintenance section for the municipality, said both motorists and pedestrians had complained they were not clearly visible. With the current zebra crossings, pedestrians face the danger of motorists who do not stop. Central reservation can also become crowded, especially during rush hour. Work on the Corniche, which started in the middle of July, is expected to be completed by October. "I think everybody will give it a thumbs up," said Lim Eng Hwa, an Abu Dhabi-based transport planner.
"All stakeholders will be happy with the Corniche redesign. It is important for the motorists too, that it be clearer to them from far away so they will behave properly." Mr Lim added that the fresh paint would provide good visual cues and make motorists slow down. "At the moment, a lot of the crossings are faded so you don't really bother, you travel through," he said. "It is a way of telling the driver, through the visual cues, that if there is a pedestrian crossing very clearly marked you should know what to do, you should slow down."
Some residents, however, questioned whether motorists would respect pedestrians at the crossings and whether pedestrians would cross at the designated points or continue to dash out at other points in a block. "This is an environment here in Abu Dhabi; it is inside the people," said Heba Abdullah, 23, who drives a Nissan Qashqai. "Whatever you do, it will never change." Sarah, 42, a teaching assistant visiting the capital from Devon, England, had noted that people cross the road at various points and that motorists travelled at very high speeds.
Walking at the central reservation on the Corniche recently, she had been startled by the squeal of tyres from one speeding vehicle as the signal changed from green to red. "You just think they're going to hit either us or somebody else," she said. firstname.lastname@example.org