BEIRUT: An elderly man sits on the ground, his pant legs in tatters. He’s just tripped over two rows of large metal nails jutting out of the sidewalk in the Beirut area of Ashrafieh. A voice can be heard amid the commotion: “Beirut Municipality, you’re very strong. Look what happened. An elderly man tripped over [these nails] and ... look where he is! Keep taking taxes from us, take our money and keep robbing us.”
The video, posted on Twitter Friday by road safety organization YASA International, soon went viral, eliciting angry responses from local users. Soon after, Beirut Gov. Ziad Chebib issued an order that the sidewalk be fixed, and municipal workers went to the location, removed the nails and covered the area with cement.
But Joe Daccache, YASA’s vice president, says reactive responses like the municipality’s aren’t enough.
“The municipality shouldn’t wait for accidents to happen to do something, or for a video to be posted. We have to be proactive and not reactive,” Daccache told The Daily Star.
“There is a huge lack of maintenance of Beirut’s sidewalks ... It is not acceptable for Beirut, which has millions of dollars in its budget, to be careless toward its pedestrians.”
Beirut Mayor Jamal Itani says he agrees. “We have to be proactive. We want people to walk more and drive less.”
Itani told The Daily Star that the municipal council has already “tendered and contracted” all sidewalks and pavements of Beirut to be repaired, including along the seafront, in anticipation of the summer tourist season. However, he added that “it is the responsibility of the administration to follow up.”
“All the employees are the responsibility of the governor. It’s the responsibility of the engineers, contractors, consultants and the supervision team to follow up on the required work on the sidewalks,” Itani said.
When reached for comment, Governor Ziad Chebib referred The Daily Star to the head of the Beirut Municipality’s Engineering Department, Jihad Bekai, who could not be reached by press time.
But activists like Daccache aren’t relenting. “Every municipality needs to proceed with continuous constant road maintenance. Precautions and safety signs also need to be put in place ahead of the tourism season.”