By Muath Freij – Feb 03,2016

A sign is placed near the entrance of a store in downtown Amman recently to prevent motorists from parking there (Photo courtesy of Saleh Saud)

AMMAN — Amani Ammoura has a passion for jogging and cycling, but she feels that practising such sports is dangerous due to lack of safe venues in the capital.

“Walking on the pavement is difficult in Amman because of the growing number of trees planted on the pavement. This forces me to walk on the street, which is really dangerous,” the private sector employee told The Jordan Times.

Ammoura and many other Ammanis interviewed by The Jordan Times agreed that the city’s infrastructure is not suitable for pedestrians, let alone practising sports.

She and others noted that trees, mostly olive saplings, are not the only obstacles facing pedestrians, naming parked cars, construction material, merchandise placed by shops on pavements, and in many cases the lack of sidewalks in certain areas.

“We encounter debris and construction material on the pavements and no one bothers to remove them.”

She added that she personally does not oppose the idea of beautifying pavements, but these efforts have to be organised in a manner that does not harm pedestrians.

Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) spokesperson Izzedin Shammout said there are regulations that control the planting of trees on pavements.

“It is not allowed to have a tree placed on a pavement whose width is less than 1.5m. Also, if a person violates the regulations, GAM is authorised to remove the trees because the pavement is public property just like the street,” he told The Jordan Times over the phone.

Saleh Abu Saud complained that many motorists park their cars on sidewalks due to lack of parking space, mainly in the city centre.

“If the pavement is full of cars, where am I supposed to walk?” he asked.

Parking spaces

Apart from the limited space on pavements, many shopkeepers and residents block public spaces in front of their stores and houses so that no one can park outside, according to Fouad Abu Mazer, a retired private sector employee.

“Public space does not belong to them and it is the right of motorists to park wherever they find space. There is already a lack of parking spaces in Amman,” he added.

Abu Saud agreed, adding that this phenomenon is obvious in downtown Amman and other commercial districts, where many vendors justify blocking the entrances of their stores by claiming that they are expecting a truck to unload goods.

“We end up spending a long time looking for a parking space,” he said.

Shammout said a municipal team works in two shifts in order to remove trees from pavements and clear items shopkeepers use to block the space in front of their shops.

“We impose a JD10 fine on people who block entrances. Also, when trees are placed on pavements, that means that they belong to GAM, so we also remove them. There are no specific figures as to the items we confiscated, but the process is ongoing,” he told The Jordan Times.

The municipality official advised people to approach GAM before they plant trees to see which are suitable and do not harm motorists or pedestrians.

“There are many residents who plant olive trees… we usually uproot these trees and replant them on the airport road,” he added.

Thanaa Halasa, a private sector employee, said she has doubts about the presence of teams touring the city to clear street and sidewalk obstructions.

As for Ammoura, she charged that inspection teams operate according to “wasta” (favouritism).

“Once we were cycling in Dabouq in west Amman, and we were surprised that a team from GAM was there to observe what they described as a violation because there was a resident who was annoyed by the noise of the bicycles, whereas we do not see such teams dealing with many other important issues,” she recalled.

Ammoura suggested having a specific area on the pavement designated for trees and another for people who want to walk or ride a bicycle, calling also for fining jaywalkers if safe sidewalks are available.

“You see this everywhere in Europe. Why don’t we have something similar here?”
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