Traffic in the city Editorial
Stabroek News
June 1, 2004

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Can anything be done to dispel the daily nightmare on the streets of downtown Georgetown where reckless driving usually results in avoidable crashes or needless jams and snarls reduce traffic to a crawl?

In comparison with some Caribbean cities, Georgetown has a very safe and sensible layout. Every day, however, its streets become a battlefield for an assortment of animal-drawn drays; cyclists; motorcyclists; motorcars; minibuses; pedestrians; vendors and, occasionally, road-repair gangs, to compete for space.

Errant road-users seem to be unafraid of prosecution by law enforcement officers. They feel free to disobey road signs; park illegally; perform illegal manoeuvres such as executing u-turns or reversing into oncoming traffic; drive at excessive speed; stop and start without warning; jump major roads and ignore traffic lights if they happen to be functioning that day. The City's best and broadest avenues - Carifesta, Homestretch and Mandela - are likely to be transformed into racetracks for drays, motorcycles and minibuses.

There are several causes for the chaos on city streets, all of which could be remedied by rigorous law enforcement and better cooperation among the regulatory and municipal agencies. On the assumption that all motor vehicle drivers would have passed some form of test before they were licenced to drive on public roads, there should be general knowledge of the rules of road use and road safety.

The first pre-requisite is for roads, especially newly-repaired or resurfaced ones, to be correctly marked and for road signs to be erected where they could be seen. In particular, pavements, pedestrian crossings and sidewalks must be clearly demarcated enabling pedestrians to move continuously from street to street without danger. Unmarked crossings and unserviceable traffic lights increase uncertainty and, probably, do more harm than good, forcing road-users to make their own judgements.

Parking, particularly diagonal parking, is problematic on densely used streets such as Camp, Regent, Robb, King and Water streets and the Avenue of the Republic in the central business district. In addition, new banks, business places, restaurants and other entertainment spots, such as along Sheriff Street, are built without provision for parking, encouraging customers to park wherever they like.

Over the last decade or so, minibuses have become vital to public transport, but a proper terminal for them is yet to be erected. Minibus 'parks' consist of no more than grass verges or road sides usually in the city's busiest streets, contributing to the chaos. By tradition, also, important streets near to the municipal markets - Albouystown, Bourda, Kitty and Stabroek - seem to be exempt from any form of control and congestion is ignored by an indulgent municipal constabulary.

Narrow potholed streets which cause drivers to swerve from side to side lead to collisions; huge shipping containers and derelict vehicles, invariably unlit at night, pose serious hazards. In fact, driving in Georgetown at night could be scary as the daytime difficulties posed by poor road signs and bad driving are aggravated by low visibility and inadequate street lighting.

Is it not time for order to be restored to the streets of Georgetown? The Ministry of Home Affairs must take the initiative to ensure that traffic infrastructure, such as signs, lights and markings are re-established and that laws are enforced more rigorously. Thereafter, associations representing minibus and taxi owners; the business community; the municipality; schools; the Police and road users should be brought together to make further recommendations for the future safety and orderliness of traffic in Georgetown.