On Pedestrian Bridges
IT is certainly a good development that the Lagos State House of Assembly has passed a resolution on sanctions for those who cross major highways and fail to use them where pedestrian bridges are available.
The indiscipline exemplified by such crossing and the danger to lives are unacceptable and any sanction for offenders is welcome.
But the government, on its part, must carry out an inventory of existing pedestrian bridges, assess their structural integrity and commence the process of constructing functional ones where needed.
Also, there is need for a re-orientation of the people so that each one will set inner standards to do what is right.
In a nation of pedestrians, this matter indeed deserves more than a mere resolution but should receive the full backing of enabling law and enforcement.
The first pedestrian bridge in Nigeria was a steel structure erected near the Idumota Cenotaph on Lagos Island in the colonial era.
However, the first two concrete of such bridges were constructed in Iddo Railway Terminus to the bustling market across the road and the other was from Oyingbo to Otto near the old Leventis Mainland Hotel.
The two bridges were planned towards the 1960 Independence Celebration.
The Project Engineer was Nigeria’s own Engineer Kafaru and his design was approved by the expatriate Director of Public Works at a time when the most senior Nigerian engineer in the Ministry of Works was S. O. Williams of blessed memory.
The construction works were carried out by Taylor Woodrow Construction Company. It was a major event on its own in those days with detailed engineering decisions at every stage, including piling the foundation because of the swampy terrain.
The two pedestrian bridges then served as reference for the construction of steel ones at Jibowu and Palmgrove on Ikorodu Road.
With the expansion of roads in the Third National Development Plan (1975-1980), concrete bridges on piles and pre-fab decks were constructed over Apapa-Oshodi Expressway and on Agege Motor Road at Ikeja.
Recently the Lagos State Government erected multi-functional pedestrian structures at Oshodi. The tiered pattern reduced the long span (from landing to crossing deck) that tends to deter users and the Oshodi structure is a standard to be adopted, for its functionality and consideration for the physically challenged.
Lagos is not all of Nigeria but, as in other matters, it provides a template for the rest of the country. As simple as the issue of pedestrian bridges may seem, it highlights Nigeria’s widespread failure to apply common sense principles of Urban Planning.
All over the nation, there are ancient cities (Abeokuta, Ibadan, Benin City, Ilorin, Kano, Sokoto, Maiduguri), which are expanding with little or no planning. After that, transportation experts would be brought in to solve the chaos of these “accidental” cities. This is patently wrong. Planning is key.
For instance, an air-conditioned bridge across newly constructed route through a neighbourhood in one of the ancient cities is not used by the people at all, in a show of poor orientation.
However, as most of the roads needing pedestrian crossing facilities are federal roads nationwide, these bridges should also get the attention of federal authorities.
The questions as to who is to build the bridges and enforce their use bring to the fore the oft-repeated need for synergy between the three tiers of government.
The burden of responsibility often falls on the states, which are compelled to act in the public interest by embarking on the necessary works on federal roads. This must be addressed.
There are also issues of safety of the structures and the security of users. There is the perpetual danger of traders on the bridge decks, which are not designed for “dead” (stationary) weight among many other threats.
The resolution of the Lagos State House of Assembly also generates questions about which agency will be responsible for enforcement 24 hours of the day, after all, existing traffic control agencies (Federal Road Safety Corps, Lagos State Traffic Management Agency, the Nigeria Police Highway Patrol Division, Traffic Wardens of the Nigeria Police and the Lagos State KAI Brigade) are almost overstretched and what would be the sanctions for erring pedestrians? More importantly, whatever agency would enforce the new rule must have a clear mandate that leave no room for corruption.
While the three tiers of government have clear roles to play in providing pedestrian bridges and enforcing their uses the people must also consider their own dignity and safety and avoid willful exposure to danger by crossing highways where there are pedestrian bridges.