By Chidi Emmanuel and Ben Garcia
KUWAIT: While driving across Kuwait, one can see pedestrians crossing the road even if an overpass exists. There have been reports of hit-and-run incidents by motorists who knock down pedestrians who cross busy highways without using overhead bridges. While there are still many places that lack pedestrian bridges, many existing ones are not being used by pedestrians. In reality, footbridges save lives.
Pedestrians give various reasons on why they don’t use the footbridges, which include laziness in climbing the bridge or being in a hurry to reach their destinations. Some also claim a fear of heights is the reason why they cannot climb stairs, while others are afraid old bridges may collapse. Some pedestrians claim they avoid using the overpasses due to the harsh weather or because the bridges are dirty.
The government spends a lot of money building modern concrete pedestrian bridges to ease the traffic flow and reduce accidents. Old bridges have been renovated and new ones have been constructed, but some remain dilapidated. “Old bridges are not maintained properly. Some bridges have been abandoned due to disuse and disrepair,” said Kamal, a Pakistani expat.
“Some of the bridges are old and dirty. I am always scared of using them. I prefer to take the road instead,” he said, referring to a pedestrian bridge between Hawally and Jabriya spanning the Fourth Ring Road. “I understand why people do not choose bridges to cross streets. I have two children, and just like all parents, I feel the unclean environment could endanger their well-being,” he added.
Maria, a Filipino expat, blamed the cleaners for the rubbish on the bridges, calling for more awareness. “Sanitation workers are required to clean bridges too. Municipal officials need to create more awareness on the dangers of crossing the road carelessly. Enforcing the use of pedestrian bridges will be a good way to reduce road fatalities. This will end the continued failure by pedestrians to use footbridges,” she reasoned.
“I live opposite a pedestrian bridge in Maidan Hawally. I used the bridge when it was new, but it is so dirty now. Before they built the bridge, there were many accidents happening in this spot. The problem is maintenance,” Suresh, an Indian expat, told Kuwait Times.
The Hawally bridge near the police station in Nugra was temporarily closed when the commercial complex nearby ceased to operate during the coronavirus pandemic. It was the most famous air-conditioned bridge in Kuwait in the 1980s. However, when Kuwait Times visited the bridge recently, it was in a very bad state. The escalator has stopped and the bridge needs maintenance.
Gina, a Filipino resident of the area, said she felt bad and disappointed. “I have been using the bridge for years, but it is no longer in use,” she said in dismay. For women, pedestrian bridges without lights have become a nightmare after sundown. “I am always scared of using the bridge in the night. I feel I might be attacked or harassed,” said Corlet Akim, an African expat.