Millions of shillings spent building pedestrian bridges in Mombasa County may be wasted because they go unused.
Local residents deliberately avoid using the four pedestrian bridges in Changamwe, Shimanzi, Buxton and Kongowea, which were built by the national government and the county.
Instead, they risk their lives crossing busy roads.
The pedestrian bridges have become a haven for street families, muggers, pickpockets, beggars and street vendors.
Coastal Regional Traffic Director Peter Maina says many pedestrians throw themselves to the wind and end up risking their lives crossing roads with fast vehicle traffic.
“These pedestrian bridges are not used enough. Pedestrians don’t see the value of crossing the pedestrian bridges or underpass, ”Mr Maina told the nation in an interview.
The law is very clear, he said, that anyone crossing a street within 50 meters of a footbridge must use the footbridge.
“It’s not easy to get the residents to use the pedestrian bridges here because we don’t have every Kenyan police officer. It takes self-discipline and patience, which many lack, ”he said.
He demanded discipline and personal responsibility.
“It’s a cultivated habit. You can’t say it’s a way of saving time. Many miscalculate and end up being hit by moving vehicles trying to cross the street. It’s very unfortunate.”
Albert Keno, chief officer of Mombasa County Transport, said this was a phenomenon that was being observed not just in Mombasa but across the country.
He added that pedestrian bridges are for the safety of pedestrians and it is sad that they do not like to use them.
“Wherever we have placed the pedestrian bridges, it was not for the show, but for the concern and safety of the people. We have very heavy traffic at all of Fidel Odinga’s footbridge locations in Kongowea Market, in Buxton and even in Shimanzi, ”he said.
The county is now considering changing its strategy to ensure pedestrian safety.
“We want to have table sleepers as part of the infrastructure in Mombasa. What we have now are elevations, but we want to develop table sleepers and rumble strips to slow vehicles down so pedestrians can cross them,” he said.
He said they spent a lot of resources on footbridges and yet they were not being used.
The District Inspectorate’s enforcement teams will ensure that the pedestrian bridges are used as intended.
Evaline Maungu, a local Buxton resident, said she preferred to use the underpass near the Nyali Bridge, which allows pedestrians to cross safely.
“I use this underpass religiously because it is safe and clean. There are floodlights that illuminate this whole place,” he said.
Most people, she said, especially school children from Burhania Academy, Blooming Bud Academy and MM Shah, will cross the border safely.
“Many residents say they are afraid of heights (fear of heights) and tend not to use the footbridge in Buxton. Others like short cuts, which is incorrect.”
She called on the district government to make residents aware of the safety and importance of using pedestrian bridges.
“We need to encourage Kenyans to take advantage of the taxes they pay or to appreciate their money. Use all available resources, not just the footbridges.”
District Inspectorate Traffic Inspector Yusuf Mohamed Yusuf said a pedestrian bridge will only work effectively if there are guardrails and other barriers underneath.
“The lack of a guardrail or concrete barrier between the streets encourages local residents not to use pedestrian bridges,” he said.
The district enforcement team stopped arresting pedestrians when Covid-19 arrived, fearing the cells would be overcrowded.
“It’s difficult for us to control traffic and pedestrians at the same time. It’s a challenge, but we hope that residents learn the importance of pedestrian bridges.”
The Buxton Pedestrian Bridge, the first to be built in Mombasa, was commissioned by President Uhuru Kenyatta on January 5, 2017. It cost an estimated Sh600 million.
When he opened the footbridge, President Kenyatta said it would keep pedestrians safe.
The footbridge was one of the projects funded by the national government with support from the World Bank as part of the Municipal Program Project.