x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Pedestrians risk life and limb to go to mall

A Dh35.2 million bridge project should make life easier and safer for Abu Dhabi pedestrians.

Al Safeer shopping centre in Mussafah is frequently busy. Bridges have been constructed across many of Mussafah's roads in a bid to stop shoppers jaywalking.
Al Safeer shopping centre in Mussafah is frequently busy. Bridges have been constructed across many of Mussafah's roads in a bid to stop shoppers jaywalking.

ABU DHABI // Imran Nizir's Friday rituals are simple. He wakes early to wash and dress in his best clothes. Then he walks to the motorway near his Mussaffah home - and dices with death as he runs across four lanes of traffic.

But the 23-year-old is no reckless thrill-seeker - he simply wants to buy vegetables at Dalma Mall.

"It's been a problem for two years," he said. "There wasn't that much traffic before. We need more bridges."

At noon, he again rushes across the road with his groceries. "Then I pray and then I sleep," he said.

Mr Nizir, a crane operator from Pakistan, has risked his life on the Mussaffah motorways since he arrived in the country at age 18. But soon his prayers will be answered.

Work will begin in the first week of June on a bridge near Dalma Mall. It is one of nine pedestrian bridges due to be completed by mid-July, said Sohail Bou-Ismail, projects director at Al Jaber, the company that won the contract in May last year.

The bridges are being built jointly by the Abu Dhabi police, the municipality, the Department of Transport (DoT) and the Urban Planning Council.

Work will begin on a bridge at Baniyas on Tuesday, and on another on the Abu Dhabi to Al Ain road, opposite Abu Dhabi University, on May 22. Others will be built near Bahia and Al Shahama on the Abu Dhabi to Dubai motorway in June.

The Abu Dhabi traffic police chose the locations after a series of studies identified trouble spots. The total cost is Dh35.2 million.

Some bridges are already built. The bridge across Mussaffah Road to the Workers' Village was completed in April, while a bridge across Airport Road to Mushrif Mall opened in February. Another Airport Road bridge, outside the Carrefour hypermarket, opened in March, as did the bridge across Muroor Road near the bus station.

"The bridges in Mussaffah and Abu Dhabi-Dubai road are specially meant for labourers, while those located within the city are for all pedestrians," Mr Bou-Ismail said.

For Khan Mohammed, 35, from Pakistan, the Mussaffah Road bridge at the Workers' Village means a much safer Friday.

"I tried to cross once last year," he said. "I was so scared for my life, the vehicles were going too fast."

He watched the traffic speed by for 30 minutes before he gave up and took a long detour to cross at an overpass. The bridge means it is much quicker for him to walk to the mosque.

"There are many of my friends who have died in crossing the road on Fridays at prayer times," he said. "People rush."

There were 19 pedestrian deaths in the emirate during the first quarter of this year, according to statistics released by the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi - 12 on Abu Dhabi island and in the middle region, five in Al Ain and the eastern region and two in the western region.

In 2011, 80 pedestrians died in traffic accidents. Many of these deaths happened on motorways.

Zeeshan Ranja, a 27-year-old transport manager from Pakistan, still sees crashes regularly at Dalma Mall. "If you see the main motorway, it's not fair for people, especially in the UAE where every car is like a Ferrari," she said. "We see accidents every day."

Mr Mohammed has already seen a difference since the first bridge was built near the Workers' Village. "It's a big improvement," he said.

The Dalma bridge will cross a four-lane motorway.

Workers from a cafe at Dalma Mall currently run across it every night between midnight and 2am when their 12-hour shifts end as they do not want to wait until their bus arrives at 2.30am.

"It's worth this risk because we're too tired," said Rodel Romero, 40, a cafe worker from the Philippines.

The bridge is good news for him and his colleagues. "We can go home early and have more time to rest," said Jermine de los Santos, 31, also from the Philippines. "All we need is just to go home."