Pedestrians and the Challenge and Struggles of Road Use.
Kids move around our streets and see a “a man eat man” society illustrated in the aggression with which motorists drive past them. School-going kids trying to cross the road on their way to school look so tensed and fear being knocked down at any time. So, they too grow up, own their cars and do exactly the same thing; with little regard for the young and vulnerable.
A foreigner once told me that she dreads walking on the streets in Nigeria, not out of fear of thieves or kidnappers, rather she dreads the manner and style of driving she sees on our roads. In many of our busy cities, one walks on the road with so much anxiety and uncertainty. You keep thinking that a vehicle could come unexpectedly from any direction and threaten your safety.
Interestingly, one thing pedestrians suffer is lack of a safe space. You are standing by the road side, either waiting for a public transport vehicle or trying to cross the road. Right there a vehicle comes and wants to park on the spot you are standing. The motorist expects you to get off the way, even though you are already by the side of the road and probably standing right next to an open gutter. We have gotten so used to this anxiety and fear unconsciously as pedestrians.
As a pedestrian, I am aware of the challenges other pedestrians go through daily. As a motorist, I want to make a difference, though the harsh terrain may not make it easy. For instance, as a sensitive driver, you may stop on your lane for a group of children to cross. Yes, you’ve done your part, but then there could be an oncoming vehicle from behind you who speedily tries to overtake you. This poses a danger to the children you have stopped for. So, it would be better that all motorists know the rules and apply it at appropriate times for the safety of both motorists and pedestrians.
After years of stay and study in another country, one crisis and adjustment I had to make after I returned home to Nigeria was the constant hooting from vehicles. While walking on the street, I would turn at every honk from a vehicle, thinking it was a communication to me about something. In no time, I had to advice myself that I need not turn all the time since in Nigeria, motorists use their horns indiscriminately at one another and at pedestrians. Horns are used by commercial vehicles to call the attention of would-be passengers going their route. I soon learnt to just let the horns blare, as they always do.
Another experience I have is while away in another country, my colleague (who is a citizen there, but had worked in Nigeria) and I were walking on the street and I turned and asked her, “Are people on some kind of retreat?” We both laughed so much as she knew what was on my mind. It was indeed different from being on the streets of some cities in my country – the blast of music, the hustle and bustle, the loud audio adverts, the noise and rowdiness. Here I was with crowds of people walking on the street and vehicles passing, but to both of us, it all seemed too quiet.
Here is a quote by an Unknown Author on:
“How to Cross Road in Nigeria”
“Look left and right for cars and bikes,
Look up for aeroplane, look down for bomb,
Look back for kidnappers, hold your bag tight
And watch the person beside you,
Then walk zigzag to avoid stray bullets.”
Interesting! This must be on a lighter note. May it not get this bad.
We must remember the need for respect for life. Sometimes, motorists seem to use their vehicles to intimidate pedestrians both young and old. You would be standing “safely” by the road side, yet a vehicle would come and almost knock you down. On top of that, you may also get insulted for not clearing out of the way. Ok, is one supposed to jump into the gutter? Maybe!
Motorists seem to always be in a hurry to “nowhere”. They also tend to have very little regard for pedestrians particularly for kids crossing the road, expectant mothers, and the physically-challenged. These are more vulnerable persons who particularly need extra kindness and consideration from you.
At that moment in which you have the car in your hand, you stand as a more privileged person. Intimidating pedestrians with your vehicle is, in my opinion, tantamount to oppressing the less-privileged. Although in terms of good health, the motorist could be far from the pedestrian, as the latter has the opportunity of exercising the body more, something our bodies need.
We all get to be pedestrians at one time or the other. While you drive yourself around quite often, you also need to remember that exercising and taking brisk walks can be life-saying. So, endeavour to find time to “Walk your way into health”.
Besides the motorists, there are pedestrians who tend to walk carelessly, somehow mindless of the fact that they are on the road. This further increases the impatience of the already impatient generation of motorists. A lot of the challenges we face on the roads have to do with infrastructure issues, as well as the uneducated mindset we carry around with us.
Lack of Infrastructure
The state of our basic road infrastructure is as follows:
- some roads are too narrow, hence vehicles struggle with pedestrians for space;
- there are no walkways/pavement along the road for pedestrians to safely walk on;
- our drainages are open and hence pose a physical danger especially after it rains and one cannot differentiate between road and drainage;
- open drainages easily get blocked with refuse, hence does not support the passage of water; some roads have no drainage, so it gets flooded with water when it rains. Both motorists and pedestrians are placed at risk;
- sometimes walk ways are not built across busy express roads, so pedestrians risk being knocked down by fast coming vehicles when they try to cross;
- important road signage, such as Children Crossing, are missing;
- traffic lights and road markings to guide motorists are sometimes missing;
- indiscriminate parking by motorists;
Lack of Knowledge of Road Safety Rules
The other part of the challenge is the lack of education on basic road safety rules. There is a whole lot in this regard which cannot be covered here. Besides, rules for motorists abound, besides that which needs to be observed by pedestrians. However, a few basic rules, even for children include:
- Stop, look and think, before you cross the road. Avoid crossing the road in a hurry. We do it all the time, and in fact, we even pass in between moving cars. This can pose some danger.
- Always look left, right and left again before crossing.
- Listen when using the road. You can have an earphone on either as a pedestrian or motorists. You need to listen to traffic signals.
- Avoid intoxication with Alcohol by both motorist and pedestrian as it compromises one’s judgement on the road. Do not drink and drive.
- Use zebra crossings, both motorists and pedestrians.
- Do not overtake a vehicle that is stopping or has stopped at a crossing. www.googleweblight.com/
To many, zebra crossing signs are more like a decoration on the road. It is honestly of no value to many because they have not been socialized and educated with the relevant information.
Now, a basic definition of Zebra crossing is:
“An area of road painted with broad white stripes, where vehicles MUST STOP if pedestrians wish to cross”.
The Cambridge dictionary defines it as:
“A place on a road, especially one where there is a lot of traffic, across which wide, black and white lines are painted, and at which vehicles MUST STOP to allow people to walk across the road.”
General Rules on Pedestrians Crossing
- You must give way to pedestrians crossing the road into which you are turning;
- You must also give way to pedestrians – even if there is no marked pedestrian crossing – if there is a danger of colliding with them.
Role of Government
Government can do more to provide the needed infrastructure to ensure that pedestrians, cyclists and motorists move around safety and respect one another.
- Build walkways/pavements by the road for pedestrians
- Build overhead walkway across busy routes so that pedestrians can safely walk across from one side of the road to another.
- Bicycle riders too can be provided for rather than having to compete with motorists for the use of roads.
- Build drainage with pavements covering them to prevent pedestrians hurting themselves accidentally.
- Have designated bus stops where pedestrians can pick a vehicle to their destination. This will create more order and will contribute to the safety of pedestrians who wait randomly at any spot for a transport vehicle.
- Use relevant agencies and jingles to educate people on basic road safety rules
Rules may exist, but they need to be continuously enforced. The issue of acquisition of driver’s license, lack of genuine regulation and lack of compliance with all the stipulated regulations are a huge part of the problem. Sometimes, people obtain driving licenses without necessarily having the competence suitable to a road user/motorist.
While Infrastructure is being put in place, and the people get educated on road safety rules, various regulatory and enforcement measures become a necessity.
- Linda Ellah