Dubai: Jaywalkers are risking death or serious injury by abusing a gap in the divider on a busy Sharjah road to cross over, even though a pedestrian bridge was installed for safe crossing.
They dodge cars while darting across the busy 80km/h Al Nahda Road after passing through a space in the metal railing, placing themselves and motorists in danger.
A number of pedestrians have been killed on the road over the years in hit-and-run accidents following undesignated crossings, a top Sharjah Police official had warned.
Another police official told Gulf News on Thursday that jaywalkers would be referred to court if caught crossing illegally at unofficial points like the one on Al Nahda Road. He added that motorists who fatally hit jaywalkers would not have to pay the compensatory “blood money” if the jaywalkers’ fault is proven in court.
The opening in the road barrier has been left there for a speed camera; it is located about a kilometre from a pedestrian overpass that links to Sahara Centre shopping mall.
Instead of walking over to the designated crossing, several pedestrians in the area illegally jaywalk across the road as a short cut.
“You’ll find a hundred people doing this any given day, it’s risky but who wants to walk so far to the bridge?” a Pakistani jaywalker said, declining to give his name.
“I only get a small break from work to go and do a personal errand on the other side of the road, I can’t waste time walking to where the bridge is. This way [jaywalking] takes only a few seconds. Besides, in the summer, the heat is unbearable and few people will want to take extra steps.”
Women and teenagers are among those jaywalking at the unofficial crossing point.
An Arab pharmacist working opposite to where the speed camera is, said she sees dozens of jaywalkers daily. “It’s risky, but they do this all the time.”
An Asian labourer said one bridge on the road was not enough. “Few people around these parts will walk that much to the bridge, climb up the stairs, cross over and walk back again,” he said.
“You’ll also have to carry the shopping bags — from the Sahara mall or grocery shops — on the way back,” he added.
Before the overpass opened in early 2009, the road was notoriously dicey for both motorists and residents, who mostly wanted to cross over from Al Nahda area to Sahara Centre.
“The objective of installing the pedestrian bridge is to prevent hit-and-run accidents as crossing the road from undesignated areas and jumping over fence has cost many residents their lives,” the head of the Anjad patrol department at Sharjah Police had then said.
Built at a cost of Dh7 million, the pedestrian bridge has a height-clearing of 6.5 metres and spans 48 metres across the Al Nahda Road.
However, pedestrians still used to slip through other gaps — made by vandals — in the metal fence separating two sides of the road.
Authorities have long since sealed off those openings, but the one at the speed camera is still being abused.