Adeola Akinremi writes that the pedestrians at Ikeja-Along bus stop habitually dash across the busy highway obstructing traffic flow and endangering their lives in spite of the pedestrian bridge around
Car owners and city bus drivers are sure to slow down at the popular Ikeja-Along bus stop on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway for the obvious reason. They are facing a nightmare posed by the pedestrians who are ignoring their walkway nearby to do a dash across the ever busy Expressway.
Jide Obanloye who plies the road to work everyday says: “Pedestrians at Ikeja-Along bus stop don’t like to use the footbridge, so you must be careful not to hit them. It is a challenge we face everyday, but some drivers drive on the road with the mindset that they are using the expressway and you cannot blame them if they hit someone who decides to ignore the footbridge and running across the expressway.”
To be sure, commuters have formed the habit of being in haste to catch-up with the waiting buses on either side of the road just to get home in time especially after work hour.
"It is quite faster to cross over on the highway than using the footbridge. I don't do it everyday, but when I am in a hurry it becomes an option for me because the time it would take to walk through the bridge, I would have been on the other side to continue with my journey," says a commuter who identified himself as Johnson.
Though Johnson believes it is faster to dash across the expressway, Emeka Okpara who works at the computer village nearby has a different view. He says: “A lot of people in Lagos are in a hurry to do everything, but if you must be in a hurry for everything, crossing the road should be an exception. It is indiscipline and it is an invitation to death. The pedestrian bridge here is not even far away from the bus stop and people choose to cross the highway without using the bridge."
He acknowledges that it is always a nightmare for motorists saying, “a lot of bumper-to-bumper accidents happen here at Ikeja-Along everyday because motorists are being careful or avoiding commuters running across the road."
In response to frequent protests by the residents, some years ago, the Lagos State government awarded a contract for the construction of a bridge at Ikeja-Along bus stop – the only footbridge on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway from the toll-gate end of the road up to Oshodi. The coming of the bridge was greeted with joy by Lagosians, who commended the state for heeding the cries of the people, though they never ceased to insist that the road needed more overhead crossing.
But now the footbridge at Ikeja-Along is being ignored by some pedestrians who dash across the highway like a stray goat with its reported attendant deaths.
A taxi driver at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Jubril Adesina, says: “I think the government needs to draft its men to Ikeja-Along before people start to die like chicken and someone is sued for murder. What’s the essence of dashing across a busy highway, when one can just as easily cross over to the other side of the road using the footbridge? It is a stupid thing to do. The KAI men should be deployed to Ikeja-Along just like we have in Ojota.”
He continues: “I see them everyday and I feel very bad, because when the road was newly constructed, for nearly 2 years there was no footbridge and I remember people protesting and carrying placards and there were several reports in the newspapers calling on government for a footbridge and now that footbridge has been given to them, they are still dashing across the road to die.”
The Chairman, Lagos State Environmental Task Force and Special Offences, Superintendent of Police, Bayo Sulaiman, in a recent statement says that the taskforce had been using enlightenment and corrective measures to urge the people to use pedestrian bridges across Lagos. He described it as shameful that despite efforts made by the state government to protect the lives of the citizens, some people treat their lives with disdain.
He says: “With the government fulfilling its part of the deal by erecting pedestrian bridges, Lagosians should also do theirs by using it. If government says let us save your life, they are putting resources in, amenities are inside, they are in for your use and then you decide to cross the expressway and you are hit by a hit and run driver, then that is your luck, if government is trying their best and playing their role and someone is saying I am not ready to use it because I am in a hurry, is it better to be late than be late, but those who are caught would be charged to court and its luck for those who are lucky enough not to be caught, there are so many duties to be done than concentrate on just one aspect, we only try our best,”
He adds: “there's nothing like smallness of a bridge, that is not an acceptable excuse for not making use of the bridge, if people are using it, they file in there in and out, they will find it very useful, people are just finding the excuse to go against the law that is why they are complaining that a bridge is small or not small, the bridges are modern bridges and they are very strong so there's no reason for such excuse.”
An Ikeja local government official, who uses the bus stop daily, laments the unnecessary risk people put themselves through just to save time. He says there have been incidents of hit-and-run drivers crushing some people to death right under the pedestrian bridge while attempting to cross the highway.
“I have witnessed at least two people knocked down by ‘Danfo’ buses right under the bridge at this bus stop while they were crossing. Unfortunately that has not stopped a lot of people. The funny side of it is that some people will dress in a flowing garment and they will be running across the highway and a fast moving car will be approaching and their flowing garment will be drawing them backward. I just think it is better to use the pedestrian bridges afterall it was made for human being to save lives,” he says.
The Lagos state government says it has constructed pedestrian bridges in more locations in recent time to help protect lives.
According to the state government, the need to construct modern footbridges is inevitable, as it can no longer tolerate cases of accidents caused by citizens crossing the highways. The government says there are plans to construct more bridges to cater for the increasing population of the state.
In this regard, the new footbridges in Lagos State are being constructed with concrete culverts, steps and durable aluminum with protective coverings to shield pedestrians from the sun and rain, a clear departure from the past where aluminums and irons were used for footbridges.
However, this new provision seems not to impress some Lagosians who still cross the highways on foot. Although, there are no statistics to show the number of people killed while crossing the highways, many, however, believe that the casualties on the roads are avoidable if the citizens are law-abiding and cultivate the habit of using pedestrian bridges where they are provided by the government.
The Lagos State Government recently directed one of its agencies, Kick Against Indiscipline, to intensify the enforcement of the use of the footbridges, especially at Ojota where pedestrians crossing the road were compounding the traffic situation. Now who will arrest the pedestrians dashing across the highway at Ikeja-Along?