POST TIME: 2 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 1 September, 2018 11:24:56 PM
Footbridges underused in capital
Footbridges at most of the busy intersections or beside markets are mostly taken up by hawkers
Faisal Mahmud

Footbridges underused in capital

With pedestrians preferring to jay-walk to cross streets, footbridges built at various important intersections in Dhaka are barely serving their purpose. Moreover, several of these bridges are in a dilapidated condition, encroached on by hawkers and shady characters like eve-teasers and drug addicts. According to data of the two civic bodies, there are 62 footbridge in the capital. Of them, 10 are located in the stretch from New-Market to Mirpur-10 and 12 are located in the stretch from Shahbagh to the airport.

The footbridges located at busy intersections or beside markets are mostly taken up by hawkers eyeing quick sales from their strategically placed make-shift shops.

Firmgate, which witnesses the capital’s heaviest traffic with major inter-city buses using the route, is a particular case in point. The area has three footbridge, but people still jay-walk there. The over-bridges are occupied by hawkers and their customers, making them happy hunting grounds for pick-pockets.

One of the three bridges located in front of Chanda cinema hall is the oldest -bridge in the capital. The structure is in a dire condition now with a massive crack on its lower part. People also use it for open defecation at night.

Similarly, the city’s biggest footbridge at Gol Chottor in Mirpur-10 is mostly taken over by hawkers selling mobile phone covers, trinkets, toys, peanuts, fruits, hosieries, cosmetics and several other things.

The -bridge at New Market has literally become part of the market with the whole bridge occupied by hawkers. The scene is the same on the bridge located by the side of Mouchak market.

Meanwhile, the bridges that are not occupied by hawkers as they are located on VIP road or by the side of educational institutions are in no better condition. The footbridge located beside Dhanmondi Government Boys’ School on Mirpur Road has grass growing on it.

The footbridge located beside a primary school at Suritola is used as a garbage dump by the local people. Same is the condition with the footbridge in front of Wills Little Flower School at Kakrail. It may be recalled a student of this school had died while jay-walking under the bridge during peak traffic hour two years ago.

The bridges at Asad Gate and Sadarghat have become the ideal place for open defecation by homeless people.

Residents allege that as the bridges are covered with posters and billboards, they are frequented by prostitutes and pimps have made the bridges as their trading ground. Meanwhile, the footbridges at BUET, Azimpur, Baridhara Natun Bazaar, BAF Officers’ Mess and Bangla College have become safe havens for drug addicts, especially at night when traffic in these areas is almost zero.

Also, the bridges that are used by less number of

people due to their locations are in bad shape. The Shewrapara footbridge on Rokeya Sarani has a gaping hole in its steel platform. Several steps of the Shamoli bridge are broken and half of the over-head shed of the New Market Gausia Bridge is missing.

Talking to The Independent, Nurul Amin, an engineer with South Dhaka City Corporation, said the civic body gets a block allocation of Tk 2.5 crore from the government for road repairs every year. However, only a small fraction of this amount is spent on footpaths and footbridges.

He said that the two city corporations and Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) were responsible for constructing pavements, underpasses and footbridges and providing other facilities to pedestrians.

According to Prof Dr Sarwar Jahan of the department of urban and regional planning at BUET, a study has shown that at least 50 per cent of the city’s commuters walk to their workplaces.

He said that many of the footbridges were set up without any proper plan and a committee should examine how these structures were installed at such great cost. “Some of them are oddly located, while most of them are located at busy places like markets, encouraging hawkers to grab the space,” he told The Independent. “All the footpaths and footbridges must be completely freed from illegal occupancy and encroachment to ensure free movement for the pedestrians,” he added.

Jahan said the existing traffic signals were not pedestrian-friendly and people usually felt discouraged to use the footbridges. “Moreover, women, children, physically-disabled and elderly people found them difficult to negotiate,” he said.

He informed that the 20-year STP approved in 2008 proposed to pursue a “pedestrian first policy”, but it earmarked only Tk 70 crore for developing pedestrian facilities out of the Tk 36,000 crore proposed investment.

“For sustainable traffic movement, especially in a congested city like Dhaka, this amount is not enough,” he said.