x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Walking is a risky endeavour

Some people complain about driving in Abu Dhabi, but pity the poor pedestrian.

My glasses are on, my iPod is playing relaxing music, and I am wearing my running shoes: I'm ready to venture out into the jungle that is Abu Dhabi traffic. I'm looking left then right, checking blind spots, watching my speed and employing signals as I manoeuvre around town. Sounds about right, yes? Except I'm walking. I firmly believe it takes more skill to walk than drive in the capital. After all, I'm dodging speeding cars and other pedestrians, and my life depends on my reflexes. I'm in a real-life version of Frogger (a video game featuring frogs trying to cross impossible roads).

Thankfully, I now understand the conflicting duality in pedestrianism here. Just because the green man is strolling carefree doesn't mean that I'm not taking my life in my hands every time I step out on to a road. And if I've looked left and right, it doesn't mean there won't be cars coming from behind me, turning at a speed that seems to defy all laws of physics. That's right, U-turners, I'm on to you. Oh, and if I took the usual five-minute route to my favourite coffee shop yesterday, that does not mean I won't have to take a 30-minute detour through alleys and construction today.

There is good news. The Abu Dhabi Municipality has announced plans to construct 32 air-conditioned pedestrian bridges throughout the city. Also, motorists who do not give priority to pedestrians will be fined Dh500 and jaywalkers will be fined Dh200. The attention to the city's on-foot traffic comes after statistics showed that in the first 71 days of this year, 26 pedestrians died while crossing roads in Abu Dhabi and 117 were injured.

I have seriously considered wearing a pedestrian helmet here, but I doubt it'll do much good other than to help road-raged folks pick out their target more easily. Here are some tips for beginner pedestrians: Vehicles here can come from left, right and behind. Check all sides before crossing. The green man is not your friend. If he jumped off a bridge, would you? Be willing to discover the city through detours and creative routes. Always wear at least one bright article of clothing at night. And last but not least, if the headlights seem far away, it does not necessarily mean that the car is not accelerating towards you at 230 kph.