Jaywalking can be dangerous, but the habit persists. There are ways besides Dh200 fines to make it less tempting.
Breaking a bad habit is never easy. Breaking someone else's bad habit is even more difficult, as police in Dubai and Abu Dhabi could attest. In both cities police are trying to reduce jaywalking - Dubai Police alone gave out almost 37,500 fines for the offence last year, at Dh200 each. But the practice can still be seen in almost every block, in almost any minute.
There's no doubt that cutting across the street can be dangerous. As The National reports today, 43 pedestrians were killed in Dubai traffic accidents last year, and 65 in Abu Dhabi in the first half of 2011; many victims, perhaps most, will have been unlucky or unwise jaywalkers.
There is a reason for those frightening statistics, and it is not that the UAE's jaywalkers are particularly incautious. In cities made to accommodate cars, traffic in urban areas speeds along at a dangerous pace. And since too few drivers honour zebra crossings, crossing the road even at a designated juncture can require a sprint for dear life.
New alternatives can help break any bad habit. On busy blocks, many more pedestrian bridges would be welcome. So, in some places, would pedestrian-controlled traffic lights: in general, drivers who sneer at zebra crossings do respect red lights. Fines aren't the only way to keep pedestrians out of traffic; more safe ways across the street are also needed.