By Modupe Ileyemi
Brisk walking is a known and encouraged exercise recommended by doctors and dieticians for both young and old for healthy living and as such its importance to the people of any community cannot be overemphasized. Considering the situation which we find ourselves in this country, where people find it difficult to recreate, exercise or socialize in the proverbial rat race for economic survival. Advanced technology and information communication technology also encourage people to live a sedentary life as all they want to do walking or going all the way can be done within the confines of their room with a smart phone. This has given room to high rate of obesity in both young and old and thus the need to exercise to keep fit and be in shape.
Our diets are equally not helping matters because they consist mostly of carbohydrates and fats, while some that want to exercise cannot afford the costs of joining gyms and health and recreational outfits. Hence, they are left with little or no choice but to embrace health walks in their various communities. Some don’t even have the time or will power to exercise and so the only cheap, easy and convenient but very effective form of exercise available to them is walking which is now being hampered by the danger of street parking in Lagos and, indeed, other major cities in the country. This, of course, is the motivation for this write up.
Being a coastal area, surrounded by bodies of water, land remains a goldmine in Lagos State and so anybody that has a space wants to maximize its benefits. Economically, this has its good sides, especially for the land owners. But it becomes unfair when it has negative effects on others. Years ago, every modern residential building used to have either a garage or ample parking space for their visitors and play area or recreation areas for the residents. Offices/ business organizations were also situated in such a way that customers/ clients’ parking needs were catered for not minding that business areas were well designated outside residential areas.
But then, what do we have today? Houses are now being built without designated areas for parking while skyscraper block of flats keep springing up here and there without consideration for residents’ car parks. Even, schools are now being constructed without regards for car parks and recreational spaces. Thus, what we now have is a situation where residents now park on either side of the roads. While some of the landlords or developers don’t have enough parking spaces on their building plans, some have converted areas marked for parking to rows of shops with total disregard for town planning laws. It is so bad that some have even converted their residential houses to office complexes with their clients parking on the roads, thereby depriving other road users access. Presently, new estates are springing up daily across the State without addressing the same issue while developers are pulling down old houses daily at key locations in the State. In most business districts in the State, skyscrapers are coming up without adequate or no car parks.
This unwholesome habit is now the order of the day, resulting in pedestrians struggling with vehicles to move on the narrow paths remaining on those roads after residents have used major sections of the roads as car parks. This situation has severally resulted in accidents and untold hardship for pedestrians and commuters alike. It also discourages walking on the roads for leisure or exercises which is the right of residents of a particular street as it is the practice all over the world. Should the fear of being knocked down by drivers trying to maneuver on a narrow road keep law abiding citizens from exercising their human rights because of greedy and insensitive landlords and compromised state town planning officers? This, I think, should be a primary area of focus for the State government and I am sure that it is already a major priority for the State governor. This is partly why the governor recently toured major traffic hot spots in the State.
If the traffic situation in the state is to improve for the better, the issue of illegal parking must be fully addressed. A recent study conducted by the Lagos State Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, LAMATA, has shown that a major cause of traffic jam in the metropolis is street parking. The study further revealed that no fewer than 10 vehicles vied for parking spaces every 10 seconds on every street in the state. This has often left all streets clogged with motor vehicles, with many being parked by the roadside, or on the walkways, while others make do with double parking, blocking on-coming vehicles leading to traffic jams especially at the peak hours.
It has, therefore, become imperative for the State government to come up with a policy aimed at addressing street parking spaces in the State. The policy, which would be in line with global best practices, would make it mandatory for developers and property owners especially in commercial premises to address the issue of parking through the provision of adequate parking spaces, especially for all commercial buildings. The policy would help to consolidate the state’s public sector transport management system. Places such as event centres, hotels, restaurants, mosques, residential areas, churches, central business districts, inner streets, among others should be made to buy into the policy. The policy could be made sustainable through development of pertinent infrastructure, such as on-street and off-street, multi floor parking lots as well as strict enforcement of the policy via officials appointed by the Ministry of Transportation. As a punitive measure to dissuade street parking, fines could be imposed for violating the policy.
Corporate Lagos could also buy into the vision through massive construction of car parks which is a lucrative business across the globe. According to International Parking Institute, IPI, the U.S. parking industry generates more than $25-30 billion in gross parking revenues. Also in South Africa, the parking industry contributes more than 8 per cent to their gross domestic product, GDP. A recent statistics by Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, also reveals that there are more than 13 million active vehicles plying Nigerian roads today, of which more than 2 million are here in Lagos. What all these data point to is the fact that there is a market hugely untapped here in Lagos with regards to Car/vehicle parking.
Undoubtedly, more organized parking facilities within Lagos state will not only prove to be an income generator, but such could also help in reducing traffic congestion which is partly caused by indiscriminate parking along the largely congested streets. If this is properly addressed, it will not only create an enabling environment for everybody to live, it will also improve the condition of living of everyone in the areas concerned.
Ileyemi is Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations, Ministry of Women Development & Poverty Alleviation, Alausa, Ikeja.