I had the opportunity to research on the George Walker Bush (N1) Highway shortly after it was commissioned. One subject of interest was why pedestrians chose to abandon the overhead crossings and rather took the dangerous risk of crossing at unapproved points. Was it that the pedestrians cared little about their lives or they felt their time was so valuable to waste having to go the extra mile to the nearest designated overhead crossing?
Despite the high pedestrian knock down and fatalities, the jaywalkers were not deterred. Fast forward to today,7 years since the highway was commissioned, it is disheartening to see how little has changed. Do we see similar situations happening in the urban space of Accra? Tune your ears to the airwaves and the answers would be loud and clear.
Not far from the George Walker Bush (N1) Highway is the Madina-Adenta Highway which has also been in the news recently due to high pedestrian fatalities. Sadly, unlike the overhead pedestrian crossings on the N1 which were completed, the crossings on the Madina-Adenta have been left uncompleted and abandoned for some years now. The situation leaves pedestrians with no option than to cross at unsafe places.
Many a times we are tempted to blame the people. However, the various institutions whose mandate it is to ensure road safety and protect road users especially pedestrians are equally culpable. In my assessment the aforementioned issues stem from an institutional failure to promote people centred development as well as a failure to learn and be innovative. Till a drastic and painful situation occurs, blind eyes are turned to blatant hostilities impeding our enjoyment of the urban space.
The current urban challenge is not about what the people do, rather it's about a failure to consider the needs of the people and to plan with them. “Vox Populi, Vox Dei” the Latin for "the voice of the people is the voice of God." has never been more meaningful than now. Roads being constructed for only vehicles without any consideration for other road users especially pedestrians is deplorable. The cries of the people for safer means of crossing fell on deaf ears till death and grieve separated loved ones.
Moving forward people should be at the centre of any development intervention. An option to reduce pedestrian illegal crossing at grade would be the use of pedestrian undercrossing for such highways at strategic locations with easy accessibility. Location is very important as pedestrians tend only to use crossing facilities located very near to where they want to cross the road. This helps avoid interruption of traffic and allows pedestrians to arrive safely at their destinations.
Should this have been considered during the design of the Lapaz construction, it could have saved lots of lives With this option being most suitable for new constructions how do we go about ensuring people centred development in other road projects? Firstly, in the case of the Madina-Adenta highway it is important the human facilities of the road be completed especially with regards to completing the abandoned pedestrian crossing and the needed road furniture.
Currently, on the N1 I see some incremental developments where provisions are being made for crossing at Lapaz. This is commendable but that should not end there as other areas also require such assistance.
Lastly, our drivers also need to appreciate they are not the only road users and must respect other users including pedestrians and cyclist. More public education and sensitisation would be needed in this regard. About the Okada and motorcycle riders, I would reserve my comments for now.
Allowing death to do us part before we seriously consider making human centered approaches a part of our infrastructure development would only come but late. Dreadfully, we never know who will be next. The time to act is now, for it can save lives and avert needles public protest. For all, let us keep demanding what is ours, the right to a safe city!
The writer is
K. B Frimpong
Urban Policy Analyst
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