There is a timely article on The Daily Star website about pedestrian bridges in Lebanon. Timely because I've been thinking about it for the past two days. I was driving on the highway yesterday, and had to hit the brakes as hard as I possibly could, because a pedestrian actually jumped in front of the car, trying to cross the highway. This of course necessitated that an entire column and row of cars hit the brakes one after the other, creating a mini-traffic jam. Now usually I am very understanding and patient, but not when there is a pedestrian bridge only 1 metre away from where the pedestrian is crossing the highway! This was exactly the case yesterday, and in fact today I saw another pedestrian do the same thing. This is the norm and not the exception. The pedestrian bridges are crying out loud, begging, "use us", but their cries fall on deaf ears. So some say that "[n]ot many people use the bridge; they feel it's easier to cross the road because there are so many stairs". No kidding. I mean, what is it that they were expecting, a stairless pedestrian bridge? And then they would complain about how difficult it was to use it because the arch was too uphill. OK look, it might not be the best thing but at least the government has done its part in many places, and why aren't people in these areas, who were the ones complaining about the lack of a pedestrian bridge, using them?? Come on, what were they expecting, that the government install escalator bridges like they have in Vegas? And I mean, I am for making roads and bridges and public places as accessible as possible to disabled and elderly people, but there are certain realities that you have to face, and the fact that it can't get any better than having a pedestrian bridge is one. Lighting is of course do-able, but I am not sure what could be done for elderly people who would be unable to climb all those stairs. I guess their best bet is to get a service (cab), or avoid going to these places. I mean, you can't exactly have a pedestrian crossing on a highway… And what about youngsters and middle-aged people who don't use the bridge? They need to be educated about the dangers of crossing the highway – before it's too late for many of them. It is, above all, a very selfish act. Let's say that one doesn't care if one is hit by a car while crossing the highway, but what about the danger such an act poses to the driver(s)? What about the trauma and fear they would go through? The daughter of a good family friend of ours once hit a pedestrian who was crossing the highway right beneath the pedestrian bridge. The pedestrian did not make it, and she (the driver) was traumatized beyond repair. First of all she had to go through so many legal procedures, and there was the threat of imprisonment, but even after these were all resolved, the emotional pain and trauma, and constant fear made her sick… Soon after, she was diagnosed with diabetes.
So does the problem end with the construction of pedestrian bridges? I see so many of them, and they are used by a tiny minority (probably 5% of pedestrians who need to cross the highway). This is an issue that needs to be seriously tackled by public education. The problem goes beyond the lack of bridges. It is more about stupidity and ignorance. Often (in the case of male pedestrians) it is an issue of "proving one's masculinity", so using the bridge is deemed as the "feminine" thing to do. To all those people who can use the bridge but who won't for one reason or another, I say that you are idiots for caring more about what others think is right than doing what you think is right.
The bridges, ahh yes, the bridges… they are begging to be used.