AL AIN // Pedestrians in Al Ain want the municipality to reinstate traffic lights at crossings on two busy streets. Until last week the crossings on Ali bin Abi Taleb and Khalifa bin Zayed Streets were controlled by full lights that would stop the traffic. In a move coinciding with the start of construction on the Planning and Mandoos roundabouts, they have been changed to a flashing yellow or no signal at all.
As a result, say pedestrians, motorists no longer slow down, forcing them to dodge traffic as they scamper across the roads. "I am afraid now," said Janice Domingo, 27, a Filipina cashier working at the Golden Fork Restaurant, metres away from one of the affected crossings. "Drivers just don't stop or even slow down. It's difficult and dangerous to cross now. " Khaled Abdelbaki, 29, an Egyptian electrician, waited at the crossing on Khalifa bin Zayed Street for three minutes, wondering why the lights would not change when he pushed the button to cross.
When told that the signals were no longer controlled by pedestrians, he said: "That's quite thoughtless. Why would the municipality do that? "It's a matter of time before someone gets run over." Ana Ramos, 35, a domestic helper from the Philippines, said she had barely made it across. "I saw the first car stop and thought the others would stop but they didn't," she said. "They just sped right by."
According to the municipality, changing the signals was necessary to relieve the heavy congestion coming out of the construction zone. "The signals were changed to ease the flow of traffic during construction on the Planning roundabout and the Mandoos roundabout," a municipal official said. "We are meeting with the police over the next two days to find the optimum solution to deal with all the traffic-related issues surrounding the current construction in the area."
Motorists emerging from traffic jams within the construction zone made no attempt to slow down as they approached a crossing only 100 metres from the end of a detour, even though the penalty for not giving way to pedestrians is Dh500 (US$136) and six black points. "I have been stuck in traffic with all the detours and all this construction for almost 10 minutes trying to find my way out of it," one motorist, a 23-year-old Emirati man, said.
"I was trying to make up for lost time. I understand why the municipality did this and think it was a good idea." A 28-year-old Emirati said: "I couldn't stop because I didn't want to get rear-ended by the car behind me." A spokesman for the traffic police said now that The National had brought the matter to their attention, they would take steps to enforce correct traffic behaviour. Nationally, there were 2,138 accidents involving pedestrians in 2008, accounting for 20.15 per cent of all road accidents.