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Would I be saving my life if I use the Pedestrian Bridge?

Aug. 30, 2016

“Have you seen those standing there, they will cross right now, look! They are crossing, they don’t fear the cars,” says 25 year old Mari, a petty trader who sells along the newly-constructed 14-km N1 Highway at Old Achimota.


“They cross here every morning, the old, young, women, men and children, cross the Highway, just look at them,” Mari says. “I will not risk my life like that.”


But unlike Mari, who would rather use the pedestrian bridge located one kilometer away from the bus stop to cross the road, many people who live along the three-lane dual carriage N1 Highway, called the George Walker Bush Highway, do otherwise.


They wait for the Highway to be less busy and run across six lanes to the other side. Others also overlook the bridge and cross right under it to the other side of the Highway.


Pedestrians claim it is faster to cross Highways when cars are far off than having to walk about a kilometer to the pedestrian bridge. Also some pedestrian bridges are usually far apart and most pedestrians will not voluntarily accept the added inconvenience of walking ten or twenty minutes out of their way just to get to a pedestrian bridge, and instead will dash across the Highway at the nearest convenient location.


Some unfortunate pedestrians who have crossed Highways have had to pay dearly for their misconduct by been accidentally knocked down by speeding cars and trucks.


Georgina Agyeiwaa, a cocoyam and plantain roaster at Abofu near Achimota, close to the N1 Highway, recounts the incident that led to the death of one of her neighbours, Sister Regina, a sachet water seller, three weeks ago. She says a speeding car knocked down Regina and another passed over her, killing her in the process.


But the situation has not deterred other pedestrians from crossing Highways even at places where accidents have occurred. “They are not disturbed by the people killed on the Highway, they just don’t care, they still cross even at places where cars have knocked and killed people,” Mari says.


But one may ask “Is it that pedestrians don’t care or it’s sheer indiscipline?”


Crashes involving pedestrians hit by vehicles are all too common and too often deadly. According to the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC), in 2014 alone, 2,571 people were knocked down by vehicles that caused 13,133 road accidents in which 11, 328 were injured and 1,856 died. These accidents involved 20,442 vehicles.


The main cause of death—for both pedestrians and motorists—is speeding. For instance, the N1 Highway is a high speed Highway with minimum pedestrian bridges for pedestrians. There is lack of homogeneity of traffic, people walking slowly and cars speeding. Ghana has a national speed limit for Highways, but because enforcement is lax, speed limits are widely ignored.


Other reasons attributed to pedestrians avoiding these bridges are :

  • Harassment: Most Pedestrians avoid some pedestrian bridges because of harassment by beggars and traders who deal in all kinds of wares with very little space for pedestrians. Some bridges in the City have also become safe havens for preachers who use megaphones and public address systems. Most pedestrians’ young and old do not enjoy using these bridges whose new occupants decide where pedestrians would place their feet as they walk on the bridge. These activities not only threaten the lifespan of the bridge but also put the lives of users of the facility at risk.
  • Dilapidation: Some of the pedestrian bridges have become dilapidated. In some cases, structural defects have developed on these bridges as traffic loads continue to increase daily. There are also wide cracks and gaping holes on the concrete with exposed rusty knots putting the lives of hundreds of people who use these pedestrian bridges daily in danger.
  • Mugging: Pedestrians have expressed fear that they can be robbed especially at night by street urchins.
  • Fear of heights: Acrophobia, the fear of height is one reason why some pedestrians avoid the pedestrian bridges.
  • Filth: Some of the bridges are not clean. People leave all kinds of dirt and refuse on the walkway.
  • Lack of Fitness: Some pedestrians find climbing the bridges burdensome because they get tired easily.


But in spite of all the challenges mentioned above, isn’t it still safer to use the pedestrian bridges instead of risking one’s life dashing across major Highways? Would majority of pedestrians rather use a pedestrian bridge without being forced to by a fence? If not, then Road designers & Road safety officials need to work harder to improve the safety and the positive attractions of pedestrian bridges, rather than relying entirely on the negative barrier of fences.


Government authorities must ensure that all Highways constructed make provision for pedestrians & the system of monitoring and the maintenance of pedestrian bridges be enforced. The Society must be encouraged to report to the police, drivers who crash into railings to ensure that they replace broken down railings on the pedestrian bridges.


The ability to determine why pedestrians cross Highways has the potential to improve Road safety. That information can be used to better design Highways with pedestrians in mind and to inform the placement of crossing interventions.


Sanity must be brought back on our Highways because crossing Highways anyhow is also an offence in the legal books of the Republic of Ghana.


Source: ADK Consortium, 2016