Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Underground, overground

The deplorable local lack of pedestrian facilities is irritating and dangerous. I'm referring not only to the scant provision of pedestrian crossings, but also to something as fundamental as footways (or sidewalks or pavements, depending on your nationality).

It is impossible to reach Al Ta'awon Mall in Sharjah on foot, for example, unless you cross at least one three-lane dual carriageway. To get from my apartment to Hardees (for want of a better example) on Al Ittihad Road involves either a 3.2km walk and seven road crossings, or else a suicidal scamper across ten lanes of urban motorway. Apart from over the bridge at Al Khan interchange there's no footway. Unsurprisingly, despite living within 400 metres of the said Hardees, I never walk there. I seldom go there at all, but that's beside the point.

An awful lot of people do run the gauntlet of Al Ittihad Road. Even more frightening is the habit of pausing on the white lines, under the mistaken impression that cars always stay in lane.

Part of the solution is obvious: provide pedestrian bridges or underpasses. I wholeheartedly applaud Dubai's recent decision to provide pedestrian crossing facilities.

But why, when crossings are provided, do so many people not use them? I have lost count of how many times I've had to brake or swerve to avoid someone walking on Sharjah's Al Wahda Street. Residential apartments in Abu Shaghara district are connected to the local Al Falah Plaza shopping mall by a footbridge.

Yet despite the bridge, and the highway median barrier being topped by a tall spiky fence, significant numbers of shoppers cross the highway and scale the fence, sometimes while loaded with their purchases.

A couple of years ago I heard a traffic report on one of the local radio stations, possibly thi bitti mix. According to this report, two guys were attempting to transport a ladder across Sheikh Zayed Road opposite the Trade Centre Apartments. If it weren't so tragic, it'd be hilarious. I wonder what was wrong with the Fairmont footbridge? Not enough of a challenge, perhaps?

How about the big footbridge that connects (ish) Lamcy Plaza to Karama? About a third of this spans the road between Za'abeel and Maktoum Bridge. Amazingly, I've seen people cross this part on the footbridge, drop down the steps on to the wide median and then cross into Karama at road level. Why not stay on the bridge?

Background image courtesy of Google Earth.


nzm said...

The error they made with the Lamcy Plaza Bridge is that they should never have put the stairwell onto the median strip - or at least put some sort of one way gate thing at the top which allows people onto the bridge from the median but not off it.

Mme Cyn said...

That's my 'hood. I yell at them out the car window because they cross the street JUST where we Karama-ites get onto the Za'abeel highway. Just when we are trying to gun it up to highway speed, some shebab (often with an ear glued to a mobile) comes dashing across the street! It would be a favor to us all to run 'em over and get 'em out of the gene pool once and for all, but I don't fancy a term in A DXB prison. *argh!*

El Casareño Ingles said...

The same gene seems to be here in Spain. On at least one occasion peds step into the street just 3m from a crossing.

The most horrifying incident (which hapened right in front of me) was four jovenes (lads) running across the A7 autovia in Marbella (eight lanes) where the speed limit is 120kph (i.e. traffic doing 140kph+). By some miracle they missed me, or I them.

dollop of cream said...

That's Indians for you.

MissHeaven said...

Undergound, overground wombling free the wombles of Wimbledon Common are we! (is that showing my age?)


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