Foot Overbridges: Accessibility remains a sticking point


Staff Reporter:

Patients, the physically-challenged, women, the  elderly and children often fail to avail themselves of overbridges (or ‘footbridges’) to cross roads as the initial climb-up the flight of stairs — often to a height of two storeys –leaves them severely depleted in terms of energy, besides being time-consuming.

While visiting different areas of capital Dhaka, the UNB correspondent came across a number of such people.

All of them who braved the road shared one common calculation: the risk associated with crossing the road at ground level, snaking one’s way around stationary vehicles or even scrambling at the sight of speeding ones, was outweighed by the physical exertion and time it would take to cross overhead.

By far the more physically challenging part comes first, that is, in the very act of climbing up the stairs to get on the bridge.

There are three foot overbridges in the city’s Shahbagh area, all of them lacking any sort of special arrangement for people who may not be in an ideal shape to attempt the pretty steep (unlike stairs in most houses, they tend to rise up in one steep incline) climb, very often in sapping conditions brought on by the heat and humidity. And it is even worse for those nursing any disabilities.

One way around the problem that has been tried abroad could be to provide escalators on the side used to climb onto the overbridge.

Some very important institutions such as Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Medical University, Ibrahim Cardiac Medical College and BIRDEM Hospital are located in the area.

During a recent visit to the area, the UNB correspondent spoke to a number of pedestrians who expressed their frustration and distress at the risks they were forced to take, just to cross the road.

Rabbi Bhuiyan, a second-year student of Dhaka University said, “I feel sorry but nothing to do for the patients, physically challenged people, women, and children who struggle to cross the road.”

Suman came to the PG hospital with his mother who was not able to walk. But he was seen crossing the road using the foot overbridge carrying his mother in his arms.

Coming down the other side, clearly exhausted, he laments how much easier it would have been had there only been a lift or escalator to get on the bridge — as some cities in southeast Asia do it.

Dhaka’s two city corporations have so far built over 80 such overbridges in the city, with 32 in South City Corporation and 49 in North City Corporation. But only two of them — one at Banani and another near the Airport — have the escalator facility.

Though it was planned to provide the escalator at one end of every overbridge, there has been no progress so far.

Contacted, DSCC Chief Engineer Al Ahmed said, “One of the key functions of the Engineering department of the city corporation is to construct the footbridges and underpasses, but we didn’t think too much for the patients, the physically-challenged, women, the elderly and children in the design.”

He further said, “But we’re planning to provide special services making the best use of technology soon. We’ve launched a feasibility test in six places for setting up escalators.”

Joint Secretary of ‘Bangladesh Environment Movement’ and architect Iqbal Habib also expressed frustration and said all the infrastructure projects are taken to serve the purpose of businesspeople, not the common people.

Stressing the big change in the current system of traffic management, he also said the city corporations should design their works aiming to serve the people. All possible things should be addressed for making it user-friendly ones before finalising any project.    unb


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