Is there a Lahori love for adventure and acts of daring? Does the city suffer from a widespread fear of heights that has never been noted before? Perhaps, the matter needs to be researched. The fact is that only a small number of pedestrians use the dozens of overhead bridges built in the city — at a cost of Rs332 million — to facilitate them crossing busy roads. Yet, these people tend to ignore the massive steel structures built over roads, treating them as some kind of decorative monument and instead choosing all kinds of hazardous and far more complex ways to cross roads.
Along the Multan Road, eight overhead bridges were built to help pedestrians tackle heavy traffic that races down the highway. Walls were also erected to cut off the drain that runs through the middle of the road and was intended to stop people crossing over it. Now, cuts have been made in these walls. In some places, metal bars or narrow planks have been placed across it, with people — even the elderly — preferring to balance carefully on these ‘makeshift’ crossings rather than using the bridge that stands metres away. Some suggest it is too strenuous to climb the stairs, but yet they have no trouble clambering over waist-high walls. The same scenes are witnessed on Canal Road, along which eight bridges stand. On other roads, including Ring Road along which traffic passes constantly, pedestrian users, including women, prefer to use bricks or iron rods as steps to get over the roads’ high walls.
The whole thing is something of a mystery. It is only near college campuses that we see bridges actually being used. The mind block that prevents other pedestrians from doing the same, in fact places them at risk and makes something of a mockery of official efforts to assist the millions of pedestrians on our roads. Old habits, it is clear, die hard — and changing this proclivity to use almost any means possible to steer clear of bridges is not going to be easy to change in a city where people see dodging cars, trucks, motorbikes and vans apparently as a kind of addictive game.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2012.
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