Danger as Lagos residents shun pedestrian bridges
As life savers, pedestrian bridges are considered critical infrastructure in modern road construction, especially in densely populated settlements.
Where they are not available, residents are not comfortable and often crave to have them, as is the case in Toyota Bus Stop, on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, where a number of lives have been lost in attempts to make a quick dash across the road because there was no pedestrian bridge.
This, ordinarily would suggest that people appreciate the usefulness of foot bridges as life savers and therefore ought to use them effectively.
But that is not the case as these footbridges, which were supposed to ensure safety of residents across the busy expressways in the city, have been turned to other uses.
They now serve as markets or display stands as well as resting places for the destitute.
Not even the introduction of Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI), some years by Lagos State Government has succeeded in enforcing the use of footbridges usage.
At Cele Bus Stop along the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, noted for it’s large pedestrian movement, a young lady accosted by traffic officials for not using the foot bridge, told them to first get rid of traders on the bridge to make it safe before enforcing its usage.
That encounter generated some debate and typical of Lagosians, two groups emerged, one in support of the lady, while others rooted for the officials.
But the 20- year- old lady, Emmanuella Umeh, said the enforcement of the usage of footbridges should only come when the bridges are in good condition and safe for users.
“Only last week, I lost my handset and some money to hoodlums on the bridge at Cele, just because some traders had turned it into a large market, which is preventing easy movement.
“Sometimes you have to push and shove yourself through the bridge as if you are in a market. The officials are not doing anything about it.
“They are interested in waylaying those not using it either to extort money, ” she said.
Also, Kudirat Adigun, a trader at Oshodi Market, said she lost her handbag to hoodlums at the new Oshodi pedestrian bridge.
She vowed not to use footbridges again because hoodlums have turned them to their abode.
According to her, trading and begging should be banned on pedestrian bridges in Lagos, if government has the welfare of citizens at heart.
But, a petty trader, who ply here goods at the Cele pedestrian bridge, Iya Biriki, claimed she pays between N100 and N200 daily to council officials to display her wares on the bridge.
But an official of Mushin-Ajina local council, who pleaded anonymity, said such payment might not be official as no receipts are offered to traders.
Also, the excitement that greeted the construction of the pedestrian bridges along the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Road, is soon lost to apathy, as pedestrians still prefer dashing across the ever-busy highway, risking lives.
Many pedestrians have abandoned the newly constructed bridges, and not even the surface beauty and design of the bridges appear strong enough to persuade them to do otherwise.
A walk down the bridges shows little use of the facilities. On both sides are streetlights that are switched on at night for security purposes.
The Guardian observed that some persons have converted the space into their bedroom, as they were seen sleeping or taking a nap.
Some mentally challenged people have also taken over parts of the bridges, where they store their dregs and sleep. All this gives the bridges an untidy ambience.
At Ojota, many pedestrians are shunning the footbridge for being too crowded, while others complain that the 7-Up footbridge is deteriorating without adequate maintenance. Pedestrians going towards Ikosi road Ketu, from Alausa end, now prefer to dash across the ever-busy Lagos –Ibadan Expressway, especially at night without recourse to the attendant danger.
One of them, who spoke in confidence, identified the lack of light and poor state of the bridge, which now has a hole as dis-incentives.
Another resident, Rashidat Ademola, found shunning the facility at Charly Boy Bus Stop, along Oshodi- Oworonsoki Expressway, said she usually crosses the highway, whenever she is in a hurry to meet an appointment.
But a pedestrian, Mrs. Gladys Umeh, complained of the design of the foot-bridge, saying there was no consideration for those with locomotive diseases.
According to her, most of the pedestrian bridges in Lagos are constructed in a way that is not user friendly, especially for the elderly, who can’t easily climb them.
For such category of people, the use of the footbridge, she said, is a herculean task.
The Guardian also observed a 70- year old man, who could not use the footbridge at Lekki Roundabout, towards Admiralty road, Lekki Phase One, because of the design of the bridge.
The man, who gave his name simply as Elder Samuel, told The Guardian that traffic officials often assist him whenever he wants to cross the Lekki- Ajah Expressway.
But reacting, Special Adviser on Works and Infrastructure to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Aramide Adeyoye, an engineer, said shunning of footbridges is not really about design but a culture issue.
According to her, pedestrian bridges crossing major highways are designed to allow for head rooms so that articulated vehicles could easily pass through.
Adeoye, who spoke through her Public Affairs Officer, Mr. Shina Odunuga, said: “When you design pedestrian bridges, you expect articulated vehicles to pass under them, because some of them carry containers and heavy machinery.
“Once they pass through highways, you must give the bridges enough head room to allow easy passage for articulated vehicles.”
She stressed that the state government has recently been constructing dual pedestrian bridges to allow a slope for easy passage for wheelchair users and physically challenged persons , as seen at Alausa, Airport road, footbridges.
According to her, gone are the days when foot bridges are designed without due consideration for physically challenged persons.
The special adviser said government has issues with the orientation of the people, because even pedestrian bridges that are as flat as anything, they still don’t use them.
“ It is a terrible culture that we have and people don’t make use of the facility but will still find an excuse for not using the bridges,” she added.