Despite the construction of pedestrian bridges on major highways to ensure safety of pedestrians while crossing roads, Lagosians abandon such bridges to cross highways, endangering their lives, Daily Trust Saturday reports
The estimated population of Lagos State is put at over 20 million, making it the most populous city in Africa. With this comes the huge task of the populace commuting from one place to another to make ends meet through various means of livelihood.
Owing to the large number of road users – pedestrians and motorists alike, as well as the need to minimise road accidents, pedestrian bridges are constructed across the highways in the state. These foot bridges are strategically constructed at densely populated areas along Lekki-Epe Expressway, Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, Ikorodu Expressway, among others.
However, despite the provision of these facilities, a good number of road users still prefer to cross the expressway without using the pedestrian bridges, leading to accidents and loss of lives in the process.
There are several cases of vehicles crushing pedestrians who are in the habit of dashing across the roads instead of using the pedestrian bridges.
Even with a pedestrian bridge not up to five meters away, many residents would opt for jumping between cars and buses, flagging down oncoming vehicles with their hands while begging for a chance to get to the other side of the road.
Daily Trust Saturday observed many passengers at the ever-busy Ojota area of the Ikorodu Expressway ignoring the two footbridges in the area while crossing to the other side of the road.
It was a similar trend at Igboefon on the Lekki Expressway as some pedestrians were captured running inbetween oncoming vehicles. The same can be said in places like Palmgrove-Onipanu, Obanikoro, Maryland, Ojodu-Berger, Oworonshoki, Cement, Sanya, Charlie boy by Gbagada, Alapere, Lekki Phase 1 amongst others. The only exceptions are places where the wire mesh installed by the government has not been destroyed.
Successive governments in Lagos State have put in place laws compelling pedestrians to make use of the foot bridges instead of crossing expressways in the state.
Former Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, on August 2, 2012 signed the Lagos Road Traffic Bill into law in order to ensure safety and orderly flow of traffic in the state.
In enforcing the law, successive governors also deployed officers of the Lagos Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC) popularly known as KAI and relevant agencies to apprehend offenders.
However, in recent times, enforcement seems to have been relaxed, leading to many pedestrians abandoning the footbridges in the state.
Daily Trust Saturday also observed that the wire mesh installed to serve as barriers against dashing across roads, are often damaged overnight.
Why we risked our lives crossing expressways
A resident, Francis Anthony Nzediegwu, disclosed that he hardly uses pedestrian bridges because they are built in a way that makes it stressful to use.
“Asides that, in places where they’re rarely used, it’s always messy and dirty, and can be dangerous to use due to touts residing there.
“In all honesty, I only use it mostly when it’s mandatory and I have no other choice, especially when there are barriers that’d stop one from accessing the other part of the road,” he said.
Another resident, Ayobami Okerinde, who confirmed the absence of footbridges in the Ikorodu area where he resides, said he occasionally uses pedestrian bridges when he moves around the state.
“In some places, the bridge is quite far from where I’m going, leaving me no choice but to cross the road.
“Also, the state of bridges in the state is something the government has to look at. For instance, the one at Oshodi is often littered with touts which puts fear in me that I may get attacked or thrown off the bridge during a scuffle,” he said.
Latoye Precious Adefila, who frequents Ojota area of Lagos State, says he doesn’t use the pedestrian bridge because it is far from the bus stop.
“The bridge is far from the bus stop and it is stressful to climb, more like doubling the journey. I cross the main road when I have to go to the other side of the road, but I am always careful. In fact, with stories we have heard of pedestrian bridge theft and the kind of boys we see on these bridges, especially at night, anybody will pick crossing the road over using the bridge,” he added.
A cleric, Abdulganiy Ayinla, lamented that pedestrians who dash across the expressways, contribute to accidents and gridlock on the road apart from endangering their lives.
“It is a bad habit from the people. They make driving difficult because as a driver you have to slow down so they can cross. If you don’t slow down or stop completely, they will rain curses on you or you may end up hitting one of the pedestrians,” he said.
Temporary shelters, market points
Due to the abandonment of pedestrian bridges across the states, some of them have become temporary homes for the less privileged, physically and mentally challenged, as well as meeting points for hooligans.
Some residents claimed that for fear of being harassed or ripped off of vital belongings while taking the bridge, they would rather risk their lives crossing busy expressways.
Some of these pedestrian bridges also have become refuse dump sites thereby making them inaccessible to pedestrians.
Most disturbing are traders that use the footbridges for displaying their wares, making it difficult for pedestrians to access the bridges.
Lagos intensifies advocacy, enforcements
The Lagos State government maintained that the usage of pedestrian bridges is part of safety measures put in place to help residents commute without hindrances in the state.
The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotosho, said the government is using community leaders to reach out to the people on the importance of using the footbridges in the state.
“We are using community leaders to talk to the people not to abandon pedestrian bridges but to see the bridges as a safety measure. Sensitization on the advantages of using footbridges is also ongoing on radio and television stations,” he said.
He also said the state has not relaxed the enforcement of the policy mandating residents to use pedestrian bridges. He noted that officials of LAGESC are dismantling makeshift stores set up by traders in response to complaints by Lagosians that they are unable to use the bridges as a result of commercial activities on the facilities.
He also warned that the state will not hesitate to prosecute anyone caught vandalising wire mesh installed by the government.