A new underpass sign on Hamdan Street, which houses a number of companies and sees a lot of people crossing the road at undesignated areas during the lunch hour. Image Credit: Courtesy: Abu Dhabi Municipality

Abu Dhabi: Despite the well-known dangers of jaywalking, the practice is still common in the capital, especially within the central business district.

A pilot project is therefore working to install visible electronic road signs near pedestrian underpasses along one of the city’s busiest roads.

The initiative, launched by the Municipality of Abu Dhabi City, aims to direct pedestrians to these underpasses on Hamdan Street.

The municipality announced yesterday that the project is part of various efforts to improve and upgrade the efficiency of road networks in the capital, and to enhance the safety of road users.

The electronic signs on Hamdan Street display variable text messages, which notify road users about underpass closure in case of maintenance work, or carry congratulatory messages on some public holidays. They also indicate that the pedestrian tunnels are monitored by closed circuit television cameras.

Hamdan Street sees a lot of foot traffic during the day, especially during working hours. The road houses numerous companies, and during lunch hour, many professionals cross the road at undesignated areas.

“The problem arises because there is only one underpass covering more than one kilometre of the road. When you are in a hurry, it can feel like walking to the underpass is a waste of time,” Amit Johnson, 38, a sales engineer from India, told Gulf News.

Johnson said he tends to cross from one side of Hamdan Street to the other about four times a day, and he always uses the underpass.

“There is a lot of traffic, and crossing the road at an undesignated spot can be risky. Just about two days ago, a lady was involved in a hit-and-run accident as she was crossing,” he said.

Although the Abu Dhabi Police can issue a Dh200 fine to jaywalkers, this penalty does not seem to deter those who cross the roads from undesignated areas. “The problem is that in certain spots in the middle of the road, the median fencing is broken and there are old zebra crossing marks that have not been painted over. Does that mean we can cross at these points or is it still jaywalking? I think people are confused about the law,” said Giovanni Dipasquale, 32, a chief financial officer from Italy.

The viability of the new electronic signs is currently being tested before the Municipality begins installing them near pedestrian tunnels across the city. In addition, fencing along road medians will also be improved in this future phase to deter jaywalkers.

Dipasquale has been working for eight months at a Hamdan Street office block that is a few metres away from the underpass where the new signs have been installed.

“I have never really noticed the underpass, and the electronic sign is a big help. It definitely attracts my attention, and I will consider using the underpass in the future,” he added.