Footbridges, underpasses should be pedestrian-friendly

Published: 00:00, Sep 02,2018 | Updated: 00:24, Sep 02,2018

 
 

THE three photographs that New Age printed on its front page on Saturday, which show people making their way through barbed wire fences on the road divider on Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue in Dhaka risking their lives, bring to the fore the non-enforcement of traffic rules. Although there are footbridges and underpasses in the capital, most of them are found underused as jaywalking continues to be popular with pedestrians. One reason why pedestrians are unwilling to use them and prefer jaywalking is most of the footbridges and underpasses remain occupied by vendors and floating people, leaving little space for pedestrians. Another reason is that pedestrians find most of these underpasses insecure and unsafe for use as loitering criminals have turned most of these underpasses into their safe hideouts making them unsafe for pedestrians to pass through. Hullabaloo of all sorts is taking place in these footbridges and underpasses under the nose of the authorities concerned, tasked with, among others, preserving footpaths for pedestrians and keeping these underpasses and footbridges safe and secure. It is also true that many pedestrians avoiding footbridges and underpasses are unaware of relevant traffic rules.
Underpasses teeming with vendors, drug addicts, criminals and even stalkers are bound to be hazardous for women to pass through. This is the reason why Dhaka city authorities could not compel pedestrians to use footbridges even by erecting barbed wire barriers to discourage jaywalking and crossing streets by scaling dividers. It is imperative for the city corporations and the Dhaka Metropolitan Police to sit together to chalk up realistic and comprehensive plans to construct usable footbridges and underpasses. But construction of more footbridges and underpasses alone cannot resolve the problem of traffic snarls and reduce the number of traffic accidents. Enforcement of traffic rules by means of which pedestrians will be obliged to use footbridges and underpasses is also a matter of utmost importance. At the moment, it needs to be pointed out that the steps that the government agencies have so far taken for the use of footbridges and underpasses were found to be weak-kneed and irresolute. More importantly, the punishment meted out to the offenders during their scarce drives was mostly found to be anything but deterrent.
The incumbents need to realise that sporadic drives of this sort to force pedestrians to use footbridges and underpasses will never result in a permanent solution. Besides undertaking a sustained drive to enforce traffic rules, they also need to take steps to keep these footbridges and underpasses clean and secure for pedestrians to pass through and hold public awareness programmes extensively on the media in this regard so that people become aware of the benefits of using footbridges and underpasses out of their own volition.

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