Pedestrian bridges separating people from the street reinforces the priority given to vehicular movement while encouraging speeding and unfriendly driving, often leading to fatalities.
In actual fact, the pedestrian bridge makes busy cities less walkable and begs the question "Why do municipalities keep building them?"
If the sole aim is to circumnavigate several lanes of heavy vehicular traffic by sending pedestrians up an often longer, steeper and more tedious vertical route, then the realities prove the failings of that objective.
Bridges are essentially an efficient way to cross over an obstacle or impassable area such as waterways, difficult terrain and now traffic. When properly designed, taking the ease of passing into prime consideration, pedestrian bridges can enrich and enhance their surroundings with an aesthetic appeal.
Back to the evolution of a problem with what should otherwise be a solution; inefficient footbridge designs impose often longer, less accessible routes up and over highways. Steep staircases and sloping ramps particularly challenging for the disabled, wheelchair ambulant, elderly, children and those carrying heavy loads can be discouraging to use.
The infrastructure, which is often left to age and fall into disrepair in most cities, discourages pedestrians who inadvertently dash across the busy highway they were supposedly being protected from and this often results in accidents and fatalities.
The scenario in the Nigerian context must further grapple with obvious insecurity as the bridges are poorly lit or are totally dark spaces which escalate a social menace.
A prime example is Abuja metropolis, Nigeria's capital city which was either not designed with preference for walking or was not implemented to reflect this. The wide roads encouraged reckless driving which led to regular mishaps, a problem which was temporarily addressed by introducing multiple speed bumps to slow down high speeding drivers. Enforcements of speed limits in varying neighbourhood zones, use of warning signs, cameras and speed tickets have never really caught on as a deterrent.
To the rescue comes the ubiquitous concrete footbridges which were designed as critical to the metropolis' transport infrastructure; the only thoughtfulness bestowed on the weary walker.
These exposed concrete structures leave all pedestrians at the mercy of the elements: torrential rain and arid heat. Without illumination at night, turning the flyover users to easy targets for miscreants, robbers and even kidnappers once darkness sets in the capital city.
Make things better...
Surely there must be a better way to address these challenges given the fact that we are often left with little choice by the municipalities. Improvements to the status quo, while not guaranteeing a total overhaul, can signal to the overlooked pedestrians an about face. The design of durable overhead protection and illumination can turn these bridges into safer, more ambient routes in the complete absence of pedestrian crossings which will always trump the highway footbridge.
Overall, a culture change is much required if we are to aspire for more walkable, cycle-able and in fact healthier cities where vehicles are de-prioritized.