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Monday, September 26, 2022

Creating the pedestrian-friendly environment

I wondered why she is never idle in the morning after I have had my fill…a long walk ensues along the beautiful park that boasts of a large expanse of greens and rolling lawns, dotted with trees with fallen leaves and different colours of the rainbow…I hear the birds chirping, see the squirrels with their bushy and woolly tails rummaging through the woods, the dogs wagging their tails as they enjoy the company of their hosts on the routine morning and evening walks. I see the early rays of the early morning sun waltzing through the tree branches…what a beautiful fall season.

Pedestrian walkway
Pedestrian walkway in Abuja

The whole scenario has changed. The trees have disappeared. Still enjoyed the morning and evening walk, but I see mud houses, patched footpaths, ducks, mother hen with her chicks chuckling. I see the goats roaming about, grazing freely…a more village-like setting…hmnnnn.

And then, hear someone say, “push” …suddenly, bright light shows up…babies scream here and there…it’s a boy, congratulations!… with eyes closed, clutched my mother, sucked, and sucked.

The above narrative was in my “mind’s eyes, conceived in England, born in Nigeria” …a tokunbo, you may say…

The above scenario depicts the vast contrasts existing in our environment in the late 1950s between England & Nigeria… even in the 2020s, the contrasts have not been bridged. We need to create a “Pedestrian-Friendly Environment” for ourselves.

Walking is simple and can be a life-altering experience. A walk can be to take you to your destination to compete in a sport. Walking is an empowering combination of commitment leading to triumph, celebration and camaraderie. Walking can carry your healthy beating heart well into your nineties and beyond and can add to your quality of life.

To have a good walking or pedestrian experience, we need an environment that is conducive, friendly, safe and very welcoming.

In Lagos, people travel from the mainland to the Lekki Ikoyi link bridge to embark on a walking exercise. They seek a conducive, friendly, safe and refreshingly welcoming environment.

This experience can equally be achieved within our communities if we seek to pay attention to creating a Pedestrian-Friendly Environment.

Such an experience could be created on a much longer stretch of roads like Ketu to Western Avenue, Ketu to Ebute Metta, via Yaba. The areas have been so planned, all we need to do is to pay attention to them and make them Pedestrian-friendly.

The benefits we derive from walking are immense. Situations, where we stay at bus stops for hours waiting for a bus to take us on a 5km journey can be avoided. If the environment is friendly, we can walk conveniently such a distance.

Walking is putting one foot in front of the other. It is the cheapest form of transport. It helps to keep our heart strong and healthy. It reduces stress, whilst it improves productivity. It gives us a clear head and improves our bowel movement. It helps the environment with its zero-carbon footprint and low carbon emission.

In our clime, we need to entrench this idea in our urban and physical planning. 

A pedestrian-friendly environment recognises the following:

  1. The rights of the pedestrian.
  2. Provisions of sidewalks.
  3. Provisions of crosswalks.
  4. Provision of security & safety measures to sidewalks.
  5. Good and unencumbered surfaces of our sidewalks.
  6. Pedestrian bridges where necessary.
  7. Dedication of Pedestrian Traffic Signals at signalised junctions.
  8. Making the sidewalks wide enough.
  9. Preventing trading on sidewalks.
  10. Preventing parking on sidewalks.

These are by no means exhaustive but are ways to achieving a Pedestrian-Friendly Environment and improving the walkability index of our cities.

By Gbenga Onabanjo (Founder, Go-Forte Foundation)

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