KARACHI is expanding at an astonishing rate as people from all parts of the country migrate to this cosmopolitan city every day.

Sadly, successive governments haven’t been able to manage the streets and roads of the city properly. Hence Karachiites have to brave a combination of crowded and dilapidated roads, streets and highways.

But the problem is not just of too much traffic on the streets; it is also one of the lack of access and safety for pedestrians in this metropolis. For people who are still in the habit of walking to their destination, Karachi is perhaps the worst city in the world.

When roads are jammed, pedestrians can cross from one place to another relatively easily, but on less crowded roads they have to thank God every time they manage to cross safely because people in vehicles — be it motorbikes or cars — seem to have no regard for pedestrians.

Perhaps it would not be wrong to say that most of the accidents that happen in Karachi occur not due to the people on foot but due to those with a foot on the accelerator. Every other day you hear about a person who was hit while crossing the road, and in many cases it is because that unfortunate soul did not use an overhead pedestrian bridge.

Why do people cross the road frantically when they know that the next car they see could be their last? Why don’t they take the pedestrian bridge seriously and not put their lives at risk? Perhaps the lack of pedestrian bridges in the city is the main reason for this haphazard manner of road-crossing in Karachi, although the government might argue that there are many bridges at important places.

A major problem is that many of the city’s pedestrian bridges are not maintained properly. Some have gaping holes through which one can see the road below, which is not a comforting sight when one is crossing from such a height. Also, one tends to encounter a variety of characters on the bridges, such as a person with a weighing machine waiting to check your weight, an expert masseur or a ‘dentist’ to serve you as well as beggars. Consider yourself lucky if you are able to escape all these obstacles. Such characters crowd up the bridges, while many structures are not well-lit, making them havens for criminals at night.

In developed cities of the world pedestrian bridges are a necessity for those who prefer to walk rather than drive, take a cab or use public transport. Yet in this part of the world either there are not enough pedestrian bridges, or they are in such decrepit shape that people prefer risking their lives while crossing busy roads.

Hence, the government should realise these shortcomings and work to clean up and improve the bridges that exist, build new ones where needed and educate the public about the benefits of crossing the road via pedestrian bridges instead of dashing across thoroughfares.—OA

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