x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Pedestrian safety must be a priority

Abu Dhabi is growing so quickly that there is a lag between the need for infrastructure projects and their realisation. This is especially true with pedestrian bridges.

Abu Dhabi is a work in progress - a city growing so quickly that there is a lag between the need for infrastructure projects and their realisation. This has been especially true with the construction of pedestrian bridges and other safe crossings on some of the capital's busiest and most dangerous roads.

Yesterday, The National reported on jaywalking in the Tourist Club area near the exit of the new tunnel under the former Salam Street, now known as Sheikh Zayed Street.

In a half-hour period, our reporter counted more than 100 instances of people, including young children, jaywalking across seven lanes of traffic. Pedestrians noted that a former crossing at the location had not reopened after work on the tunnel finished, meaning the choice was to take a lengthy detour or run the gauntlet of city traffic.

Jaywalking is a punishable offence, but in some places - including, notably, the construction jumble that is Reem Island - there are simply no places to cross the road without breaking the law. There is also confusion about where it is legal to cross. Some older roads have faded zebra crossings that may, or may not, still be legal crossing points.

In general, the emirate's thoroughfares are built for speed and the convenience of motorists. But those roads are shared by pedestrians whose rights and safety must also be taken into account.

Across the UAE, 151 people were killed in 954 pedestrian-vehicle incidents from January to November last year. On Sheikh Zayed Street alone, the authorities registered almost 70,000 speeding violations, and there were 22 accidents leading to four deaths and a serious injury. Overall, road deaths are down across the country, but there is still considerable progress needed to reduce pedestrian deaths.

The municipality says work is continuing along the Sheikh Zayed Street stretch. Speed cameras are monitoring vehicle traffic, and pedestrian bridges are on their way. The promise is that the road will be safer for all users once the work is completed. Given the gauntlet pedestrians are running now, however, footbridge work should be expedited.

In March, the Ministry of the Interior will launch an educational campaign with the catchphrase "Pedestrian safety is our responsibility". Slogans are important but so, too, is infrastructure planning that prioritises the safety of pedestrians and motorists alike.