x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Residents still scrambling to cross traffic in heart of Abu Dhabi

Residents and workers call for a foot bridge as pedestrians continue to risk their lives by darting across six lanes of traffic on Sheikh Zayed Street near the Corniche.

A man crosses Sheikh Zayed Street, through public work barricades. Twenty-six people were counted doing the same in 30 minutes. Pawan Singh / The National
A man crosses Sheikh Zayed Street, through public work barricades. Twenty-six people were counted doing the same in 30 minutes. Pawan Singh / The National

ABU DHABI // Residents and office workers in a busy city district are calling for a pedestrian bridge over Sheikh Zayed Street.

Pedestrians are risking their lives by darting across seven lanes of traffic near the Sheikh Zayed Tunnel exit on the Corniche.

At 10am on a Sunday morning, The National counted 26 pedestrians crossing six lanes of traffic from the LuLu Centre to the Royal International Hotel in Al Zahiyah, formerly the Tourist Club Area, in 30 minutes.

Another 25 pedestrians dodged traffic from the site of the Porsche showroom building near the Sheraton Hotel on the Corniche to cross to the other side.

Ramphel Dhull, 51, a diving supervisor from India, crossed the road from LuLu Centre to reach Al Diar Capital Hotel near the Corniche Road in Al Zahiyah.

The speed limit on the tunnel is set at 80kph, except for the exit points at the Corniche and the Port, which are 60kph.

“They must come up with a solution so pedestrians can cross the road safely,” Mr Dhull said. “I know Abu Dhabi is doing a good job at building roads and bridges.”

A pedestrian crossing next to the Adnoc petrol station was closed when road construction began in 2007 and the centre of the road was barricaded. But the temporary white and red barriers have not deterred people from crossing the road at inappropriate locations.

When Mohammed Arif, a surveyor, is unable to get a parking spot near his office in the LuLu Centre, he drives to the other side of the road, parks his SUV behind The Royal International Hotel, and crosses to his office.

“It’s dangerous but what can we do?” asked Mr Arif, 30. “There are not enough parking spaces near LuLu Centre.”

There are two main issues affecting pedestrian safety, said Glenn Havinoviski, an associate vice president of transport systems at the US traffic-management company Iteris.

“There is virtually no pedestrian access across Salam Street between Hamdan Street and the Corniche, literally in the heart of Abu Dhabi,” Mr Havinoviski said.

“Many of the people who cross high-speed roads seem to have no perception of how dangerous high-volume, high-speed traffic is.

“But in extremely hot weather they may not be willing to walk 500 metres or more to the nearest safe crossing.”

For Hussam Kassim, 40, an IT professional from Palestine who has lived in the capital for 10 years, parking behind the hotel and crossing the road has become a daily routine.

“Everybody knows it’s dangerous to cross the road but we have no choice,” Mr Kassim said.

On a recent Thursday morning, Jonathan Pujols, 33, a consultant at the Emirates Advance Investments Group, crossed the road from Corniche Hospital.

“My wife is in the hospital and I wanted to get her some flowers,” Mr Pujols said. “There’s no place to cross the road safely. There is a need to mitigate the risk so pedestrians can travel safety on foot.”

Sufian Bashir, a software consultant who has lived in Abu Dhabi for four years, said it was more convenient for people to cross the road instead of walking to the Hamdan and Sheikh Zayed streets traffic junction.

“There’s no other option,” Mr Bashir said. “Thousands are crossing both sides of the road every day.”

Pedestrians are among the most vulnerable road users, comprising up to 45 per cent of road deaths and injuries globally, said Dino Kalivas, chairman of the driver education and training committee at the International Road Federation.

“Pedestrians have no secondary safety system,” Mr Kalivas said.

Infrastructure such as traffic signals, walkways and public transport to separate pedestrians and cyclists from vehicles requires considerable time and money to implement, he said.

“The Urban Planning Council has a very ambitious and worthwhile plan to make Abu Dhabi more pedestrian friendly,” Mr Havinoviski said.

“Wider sidewalks and more well-defined and protected zebra crossing are a wise idea.”

The pavement in front of the LuLu Centre’s car park, and the one across the street, have been closed to pedestrians.

A representative at Al Jaber Precision Engineering and Contracting confirmed the company had been awarded the project but declined to provide further details.

The municipality did not respond to several requests for comment.

But in January last year, the authority revealed plans to open a pedestrian bridge at the tunnel exit in early June 2013.

rruiz@thenational.ae