ABU DHABI // Hundreds of pedestrians are risking their lives every day as they use a gap in a median fence to illegally cross one of the city’s busiest roads.
On a recent afternoon, a group of men dashed across three lanes of traffic to the central reservation on Muroor Road, between Electra and Hamdan streets.
As cars zoomed by, the men waited for a break in traffic before crossing another three lanes of traffic to reach the other side.
Since last year median fences have been erected on Mohammed bin Khalifa Street, Karama Street, Airport Road, Muroor Road and other main streets in Abu Dhabi city to prevent people from crossing away from junctions.
But residents take advantage of a wide gap in the fence across from the Farouk International Stationery building on Muroor Road.
Armaalla, 39, a security guard from Nepal, was one of the jaywalkers but said he did not know his actions were illegal and could incur a Dh200 fine.
There is another wide gap in the fence opposite the Lifeline Hospital, on the junction of Electra Street and Muroor Road.
Instead of walking to the nearest traffic junction and using the clearly marked zebra crossings, many prefer to dodge traffic from the site of the hospital or the Abu Tariq Furnishing building nearby to cross to the other side.
Residents also use the faded mid-block crosswalk in front of the Marina Plaza building on Muroor Road but need to wait for a break in traffic at the central reservation before dashing across another three lanes to get to the other side.
Nihad Mohammed, 30, from Egypt, carried her one-year-old son Saif and held the hand of her daughter Lamar, 5, as they crossed six lanes of traffic.
“It’s not that safe but I make sure the road is clear before we cross the road,” she said.
Mrs Mohammed, whose daughter attends a private school in the area, said drivers normally yielded to pedestrians waiting at the central reservation.
“I think it will be safer if they build an underpass here,” she said.
Abbas Ali, 30, a jobseeker from India who also used the mid-block crossing, said there was no need to build an underpass or a footbridge – people should just cross at designated places.
“It’s a bit dangerous to cross the road,” he said. “But if we follow the rules, we’ll have safer roads.”
Another pedestrian, Edward Dulu, 29, a retail worker from the Philippines, said: “Others are just too lazy or in a hurry so they ignore the zebra crossings.”
He suggested repainting the mid-block crossing where the paint has faded, and installing a footbridge in the area to provide a safe means for pedestrians and cyclists to cross over Muroor Road.
Last March, Musanada, the city’s general services company, announced the opening of seven new footbridges across the emirate to ensure public safety and reduce accidents.
More crossings are to be provided, along with upgraded streets, bridges and tunnels.
Iftekhar Ahmed, a Bangladeshi-born Canadian electrical engineer in Abu Dhabi, said more jaywalkers need to be fined to discourage others.
“I often come across large groups of pedestrians who take advantage of the gaps in the median fence on Muroor Road,” he said.
“The median fence should be fixed to prevent pedestrians from taking shortcuts to cross the road.”
Meanwhile, authorities should make the mid-block crosswalk in Muroor Road safer, he said.
“This particular area, between Electra and Hamdan streets, is very crowded between 5pm and 6pm,” said Mr Ahmed, who launched a pedestrian safety campaign this year. “Perhaps they can install a system where pedestrians are able to press a button to get a walk signal and cross safely.”
Wider and better-maintained pavements, more well-defined zebra crossings and mid-block signal crossings are needed across the city, said Glenn Havinoviski, associate vice president of the US traffic management company Iteris, which opened an Abu Dhabi office in 2011.
“I believe there are not enough signal crossings between the major traffic signals, and that probably has led to people crossing at mid-block,” he said.
“For the longer term, the vision of a ‘complete street’ needs to address a more public transport-friendly, bicycle-friendly street where cars need to travel at more controlled speeds.”
Abu Dhabi Municipality was not available for comment.
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(via The National)