Pedestrians, footbridges and avoidable accidents on Lagos roads
Despite the provision of footbridges across major highways in the country, especially in Lagos, many pedestrians, who consider it a waste of time using the facilities, have continued to dash across the roads.
CHIJIOKE IREMEKA writes that many people have lost their lives in accidents while running across the road, hence the need for the government to enforce the usage of the bridges, especially where wire mesh barrier is not in place.
Balogun Hakeem, as he was identified at the scene of an accident that broke his leg at Cele-Ijesha Bus-stop, along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Lagos will never forget the day he cheated death.
He was hit by a dispatch motorcyclist while dashing across the road instead of using the footbridge at about 6:05 pm on Monday, August 20, 2022. When fully recuperated from the leg fracture he sustained, Hakeem would have learnt a hard way how not to sprint across the expressway, especially at places where footbridges are in place.
The accident occurred when Hakeem collided with another impatient pedestrian who was also dashing across the road from the opposite direction.
Before the two pedestrians could untangle each other, Hakeem was hit by the motorcycle and got his right tibia broken. The rider sustained injury and was vomiting blood, perhaps due to internal injury.
The victims were lucky that there was no car or truck coming their way when the accident occurred, or else they would have been crushed.
Such incidents ought to scare other people from sprinting across the roads, but even the sympathisers still ran across the expressway to tend to the victims who were crying for help.
Ironically, the pedestrians who were impatient to climb the bridge to cross the road ended up in a hospital where they would learn how to be patient and obey the law. Only God knows how long Hakeem would have to nurse his fractured leg.
This type of accident has claimed the lives of many pedestrians who refused to use the footbridges in Lagos and other places. It is one thing to make these facilities available by the government and it is another thing for the pedestrians to make use of them.
While it is true that there are still many places in need of footbridges, it is disappointing that pedestrians are not using those available to ensure the safety of their lives and facilitate the free flow of traffic.
Perhaps because the footbridges are not being used, some of them have become homes for destitute, mentally challenged people and all sorts of characters as can be seen at Cele, Sadiku, Mazamaza, Oshodi, Charity and Ojota bus stops, among others, in Lagos.
Among the benefits of using footbridges are making the crossing of roads safer for pedestrians and preventing obstructions to the free flow of traffic.
To ensure the usage of these bridges, the Lagos State government installed wire mesh to serve as barriers against dashing across roads. But when the fences are broken, pedestrians still run across the roads.
Some personnel experts, who observed that managing humans in the public arena is a herculean task, advised that all broken wire mesh should be repaired or replaced accordingly. Where they are not available, residents are not comfortable and often crave to have them, as is the case at Iyana-Isolo Bus-stop, Second Rainbow and Toyota Bus-stop, all on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, where lives have been lost in attempts to sprint across the road.
It is also worrisome that some of the footbridges in Lagos have become mini markets. Indeed, almost all of them now serve as markets or display stands for goods as well as resting places for destitute and thieves with the intention to rob or steal from pedestrians.
The excitement that greeted the construction of the pedestrian bridges along the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Road has been lost to apathy, as pedestrians still prefer dashing across the ever-busy highway, risking their lives. There has been little use of the facilities. On both sides are streetlights that are switched on at night for security reasons, yet government agencies often pack the remains of people crushed by motorists who are perhaps racing to catch up with the flight.
During a trip to the airport, The Guardian saw a number of pedestrians, including pregnant women, running across the road. Some are nursing mothers who carried their children, teaching them how to break the law.
“On one occasion, when I was going to the Zenith Bank along the Airport Road, I witnessed an accident that took the lives of pedestrians who were trying to run across the road at a junction instead of using the bridge,” said an eyewitness, Mercy Onyekachi.
“It was a horrible sight because they were crushed by a Highlander jeep speeding to the airport. By the time I came out of the bank, within the space of 40 minutes, I didn’t see anything there anymore. It was as if nothing happened.
“The taxi drivers I was talking with said the cleaners had moved the bodies away. They said people died there on a regular basis. I just wish the government would wall the roads off with wire,” she added.
At Oshodi, the newly constructed footbridge just before the flyover (Oshodi-Oke), is being occupied by miscreants instead of pedestrians.
One Miss Patient Ojialor said: “The pedestrians are shunning the bridge due to security reasons. It will be disastrous for anybody to use the bridge at night if bags are snatched there during the day.
“I was almost robbed at a time by those people but for some men that came to my rescue. Since then, I can imagine what would happen to anybody who uses the bridge at night. It is too long and high. I don’t think it has a light too. This is why you see many people still running across the road instead of going up there. If anything is happening to anybody there, nobody will know.”
The Guardian observed that the footbridge was empty while people were crossing the road. The only one that had a few people on it was the one opposite the Nigeria Army Resettlement Centre by Charity Bus stop partly because the soldiers make pedestrians use the bridge.
Despite the fact that the aluminium handrails at the Five Star (Asuwani market) footbridge have been completely stolen by thieves, making it risky for pedestrians to climb, it is still being used during the day. But pedestrians will never use it in the evening and at night to avoid being attacked by thieves.
“Five Star is a very bad spot for anybody to find his or herself once it’s dark. It can be very dangerous to climb or use the bridge at that time. I work at Ladipo, so I know what I am saying. My colleagues have been dispossessed of their valuables there many times.
“Our people are always in a hurry to use the road. But in most cases, you find out that while they wait for the road to be free so that they can dash across, the person that used the bridge would have safely come down without any stress,” a pedestrian said.
When, at the Cele Bus stop along the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, a young lady was accosted by traffic officials for dashing across the road, she asked them to first get rid of the traders on the footbridge to make it safe for people to use. The Guardian learnt that the encounter generated a heated argument. The 20-year-old lady, Emmanuella Umeh, insisted that the enforcement of the usage of footbridges should only come when the facilities 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. The situation impedes the easy movement of people. Sometimes, you have to push and shove yourself through the many traders on the bridge as if you are in a market.
“The officials are not doing anything about it, not even operatives of Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) would arrest the situation. They are only interested in waylaying pedestrians not using the bridges so that they can extort them,” she said.
At a time in the past, Lagos State Neighbourhood Watch guards were always seen on the bridge to ensure that pedestrians are not robbed, especially during Governor Babatunde Fashola’s administration.
At the time, officials of the Lagos State Transport Management Agency (LASTMA) and KAI were on frequent patrol to enforce the use of the footbridges. That is not happening again. People are losing their valuables on a regular basis while climbing the bridges to cross to the other sides of the roads, making some of them shun the facilities.
A lady, who identified herself as Uche and claimed that thieves snatched her bag at Oshodi bridge, said she would never use the pedestrian bridge unless there are security guards.
“The traders on the bridges, as well as the beggars, should be sent away. The place should be free enough for people to walk through and not where preaching, trading and begging should be encouraged, else more people will not use the bridges,” she advised.
At Ojota, the footbridges were really being used as there was wire mesh preventing pedestrians from running across until the barriers were pulled down and many people started sprinting across the roads.
Some years ago, security operatives were arresting defaulters. Then, the pedestrians were in strict compliance even when there was a long queue on the bridge. Today, many people shun bridges and walk across the roads.
Pedestrians going towards Ikosi road in Ketu, from the Alausa end, now prefer to dash across the ever-busy Lagos–Ibadan Expressway, especially at night, not minding the danger.
At Charly Boy Bus Stop, along Oshodi- Oworonsoki Expressway, a pedestrian, Rashidat Ademola, confessed to shunning the footbridge whenever she is in a hurry to keep an appointment.
Umeh said most of such bridges in Lagos were constructed in a way that makes them not to be user-friendly, especially for the elderly who can’t easily climb them.
To her, the use of the footbridges is a herculean task for elderly people, though the Lagos State government disagreed with her stand.
Reacting to the issue, Aramide Adeyoye who is the Special Adviser on Works and Infrastructure to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the refusal to use the footbridges was not due to the design but a matter of culture.
According to her, the bridges crossing major highways are designed to allow articulated vehicles with headroom to easily pass under.
Adeoye, who spoke to The Guardian earlier, 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.”
She explained that the state government has recently been constructing dual pedestrian bridges with a slope for easy passage for wheelchair users and physically challenged persons, as seen at Alausa and Airport road.
“Gone are the days when footbridges were designed without due consideration for physically challenged persons. The government has issues with the orientation of the people because even when the bridges are as flat as anything, they still don’t use them. It is a terrible culture that we have. People don’t make use of the facilities and will still find excuses for not using them,” she said.
“Lagosians need a change of attitude towards using the footbridges. They need to comply voluntarily as this would easily reduce the government’s burden (especially in terms of having to take the costly route of enforcement) and also reduce the risk of needless deaths on the roads,” Mobolaji Adebayo of the Ministry of Information and Strategy, Ikeja, said in a report titled ‘Lagosians, Pedestrian Bridges And The Sanctity Of Life.’
“In Lagos, the government has spent a lot of money in putting the footbridges in place to ease traffic and reduce road accidents. It would only amount to a waste of scarce resources if the residents whom the bridges are meant to protect refuse to make use of them,” he added.