Pedestrian Bridge standing on the crossing of Vaja pshavela and Gamsaxurdia Avenue on Saburtalo.Bridge is metal and contains 40 step leader up and and 40 step leader down. It was constructed in he end of 2009.
Two young school pupils with well packed knapsacks on their little backs ran across the iron bridge over Gamsakhurdia Avenue recently, and followed the steps down laughing in loud voices.
She looked up to the bridge and whispered something. Then she moved on the road slowly to the red sign of stoplight. Resting upon the crutch with her right hand and holding a little bag with some medicines in it on the other hand, old women slowly pulled herself up the metal stairs and crossed the street at last.
Crossing the busy, chaotic streets of Tbilisi is no easy challenge, as nearly 4,500 people were injured and 667 died while crossing street during the last three years. Recent surveys show that only 55 percent of 1,500 respondents say that they follow road rules. The other 45 percent just ignore them, according to research conducted by the Association of Safe Driving in 2010 January.
To reduce the number of traffic-pedestrian accidents, Tbilisi City Hall built 20 bridges in different regions of the city in 2009, and plans to build another 20 by the end of 2010. Each pedestrian bridge costs 100 000- 150 000 lari and the light signals will be removed. Starting in 2011, government transportation officials say they are going to install lifts to bring elderly and disabled people up the stairs more easily, but they don’t have a concrete budget yet, or a construction start date.
“We see this problem is one of the most painful issues for Tbilisi inhabitants. That’s the reason why did we start building these bridges. Each of them is done in order to ensure the safe transportation of the people on the streets,” says Akaki Joxadze, the head of the Transport Municipal Department.
The bridges have met with mixed results residents, according to an informal poll conducted in February. On a recent day in front of the bridge standing on the crossing of Vaja Pshavela and Gamsaxurdia Avenue in Saburtalo, 120 respondents were asked if they liked the new bridges. The majority, 50%, said that they liked the bridges, 30% said they disliked them and 20% answered they didn’t care.
Same bridge with another view. There is iron veneer in the end of 10 metre long pedestrian bridge, which covers the window of the flat, where people live.
Those who like the bridges say that this is the best way for safe crossing the streets and they appreciate it.
“I use bridges frequently and I guess it is very nice job done for people,”-says Bella Beradze, a 26-year-old medical student.
But the older respondents got, the more they were likely to complain about the bridges – probably because it’s difficult for them to climb up and down the metal steps, such as the Gamsakhudia Bridge, which has 40 steps up and 40 steps down.
Middle aged respondents were less likely to care, but more likely to question whether building bridges was the most important spending priority for the city government.
“Bridges can’t fill in my empty stomach. Authority should think about our vital interests, rather than wasting money in unnecessary things,” says Manana Dumbadze, a 56-year-old woman. She thinks that government should spent money on making new job places, rather than building pedestrian bridges.
Some opposition members claim the bridges are simply visual public relations for the upcoming direct mayor’s election on May 30, and don’t address the real problems.
“Main obligation of Tbilisi City hall is to provide researches about the most vivid issue for the citizens. They must have discussions with NGO-s, experts and after all assert the project, these rules are just ignored -“says Petre Mamradze, president of the Just for Georgia political party.
One of the oppositional political parties, which entered the parliament after the parliamentary elections,-Christian Democrats contends that though the rate of car accidents was high, making so many bridges was “just absurd.”
“I see some of bridges stand on strategic places and I appreciate it, but most of them are constructed in a wrong way, where there aren’t needed,” says Giorgi Axvlediani- member of the political party. “Ninety nine percent of this project is simply P.R. They want us to look like the European Countries, but forget to solve the real problem- unemployment,” Axvlediani says.
Governmental side doesn’t agree with oppositional parties, contending the bridges have saved lives.
According to the Tbilisi Police statistics conducted in 2010, the number of car accidents has decreased by 30% during 2009 in comparison with the last three years, says police officer Guja Gviniashvili.
“We made big changes in a little time. I’m certain, that people will get used to and be satisfied with the bridges,” he says