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Beating the traffic issue

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I must admit to a fixation with the issue of traffic around Kingstown, for apart from the specific problems caused, it adds to and in fact helps to create the disorder we see around Kingstown. It is my view that things will get completely out of hand if this is not given serious attention. I wonder sometimes if anyone cares or perhaps it really isn’t an issue. It is one of the legacies of our adopted Westminster style system of government that our priorities tend to be focussed in a five-year time-frame, as we give attention to matters that can show results within that election phase. Traffic is an ongoing issue and not a quick fix, in that adjustments should be continually made as things change in the country and as developments are contemplated. New traffic arrangements and regulations must come after careful study of the state of Kingstown. We seem, for one, to be paying little attention to the impact of the incredible number of vehicles that enter our country annually. Our roads were obviously not designed to accommodate so many.

Minivans have their own rules and regulations as they engage in their daily hustle. Parking in Kingstown is a major headache, with large sections of the roads reserved for the accommodation of business places, some with more space than they need. I see, and this applies countrywide, mechanic shops being set up in any available space near to the main road. The Middle Street area between Gonsalves Liquors and the market is a total mess. Goods are delivered at any time of day, impeding the flow of traffic. Pedestrians operate by their own logic and fancies, with scant regard for police or other vehicles. Persons sometimes text as they walk leisurely on the pedestrian crossings. Carts have been multiplying and will soon demand a special lane for themselves. The cart owners, our new entrepreneurs, seemed to have captured a niche market.

I saw some reference to a statement made, I believe, by an officer of the Traffic Branch that they will rigidly enforce traffic regulations in 2017. I don’t know the context in which this was said, but it is a strange statement, because it admits that they had not been enforcing traffic regulations. If they were unable to do anything about this in 2016 what has led them to the conclusion that they could fix it in 2017? What is going to be new! His concern, from the item I read, seemed to have been with seat belt regulations and it might be that that was what the discussion was about, because the use of seat belts is the least of our problems.

Should we not be paying attention to the flow of traffic around Kingstown? We must look again at how we organize the flow of traffic, looking especially at one way traffic routes and the directions in which they run. Maybe a total overhaul is needed about the direction and flow of traffic. Can something be done about, the chaos around Greaves, as vendors seem to have completely taken over that area, forcing vehicles to block the flow of traffic? Is it not possible to give businesses in Middle Street special times when deliveries could be made? Is that a practical thing to do? Middle Street needs some reworking. Are we the only Caribbean country without street lights, or do we want to sell ourselves as the quaintest Caribbean destination, assuming it has a charm of its own? And why not? The latest Japanese vehicles jostling for space with carts is a tourist attraction! Pedestrians often pay little attention to the commands of traffic wardens, but would they take a chance when facing red lights? Daily between 3 and 4 p.m., the area between the Peace Memorial Hall and Sally Spring is total confusion. Students and workers await vehicles supposedly heading for the bus stands on Bay Street, but fully aware that they are likely to turn around anytime they believe they have enough passengers. U turns at the busiest times of the day seem to be acceptable, as we all make way for them.

I am quite curious about the kind of tests given to persons who drive vans transporting schoolchildren and members of the public. Is there an age criteria? How long after the receipt of their licences are they allowed to drive public transport vehicles? Are separate tests given? There is a don’t care attitude that just rubs me the wrong way. It is enough to drive one crazy when you try to observe traffic regulations and see others blatantly flout them without reprieve. It might also be that the regulations themselves need overhaul. Should we, therefore, re-examine not only the way traffic flows, but also the regulations currently in place? Will we be guided by it or will it be business as usual? Maybe I am making a mountain out of a mole hill and everything is fine, but the fact is that many people try to avoid Kingstown, not prepared to deal with the traffic confusion and sharing sidewalks with an ever-increasing number of vendors.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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