Revisiting the traffic situation
Kaieteur News
January 21, 2007

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Friday exposed the limitations in the ability of this country to handle the flow of traffic. The initial suggestion is that we do not have the roadways to handle the volume of traffic. Friday exposed the nation to the volume of vehicular traffic that plies the streets.

We know that in most countries most of the jobs are in the capital. This means that people travel from just about everywhere to work in the city. It is not unusual to find that people would leave their homes, pay boarding and lodging to be near their jobs and head home at weekends, only to continue the cycle at the start of the new week.

The police opted to choose Friday to simulate the situation that may occur when Cricket World Cup comes to Guyana in another few weeks. The authorities, cognizant of the traffic situation in the vicinity of the Demerara Harbour Bridge, and recognizing that the volume of traffic that plies between West Demerara, East Bank Demerara and the city had far outgrown the roadway that provides the link, decided that the time was right for the construction of a highway that would eradicate any bottlenecks at the approaches to the city.

We had reached the situation where each morning and afternoon during peak hours there were traffic jams at the exits of the city. A journey of 10 minutes invariably took more than an hour. People fumed. Many left their homes hours earlier to beat the congestion and ended loitering near the place of their employ.

And so we come to Friday. With the passage of the Sunset Legislation, Guyana had voted to create restricted areas around the Guyana National Stadium at Providence . An area west of the stadium would be open to vehicular traffic while the eastern carriageway would be restricted to vehicles transporting officials and players to the stadium.

As expected, in the vicinity of the Demerara Harbour Bridge , people were exposed to a situation that they thought had become something of the past. They found that tractor-trailers and animal drawn carts as well as trucks created the greatest problems.

We had long asked the authorities to restrict the movement of these vehicles. Many had suggested that these vehicles be allowed on the roads only during the hours of darkness and when there was no build up of traffic on the streets. Friday's test once more highlights the need for such a decision.

The same thing should be extended to the city. On Friday, too, the Parliament had to meet. That meeting attracted protests and caused the traffic authorities to shut down parts of the city. It became clear to anyone who had failed to notice that the area around the Stabroek Market was the busiest at any time of the day. Just about every aspect of the traffic converges there. And so we had serious problems when the authorities decided to close down some sections of the city.

People could scarcely access locations in the area. Some were late for court appointments and some simply could not park close to where they were heading.

This exposes our limited roadways. The absence of what would be considered public transportation systems that would have necessitated special parking was probably a blessing in disguise.

The long and short of the situation is that we probably have more cars and buses than we need. Perhaps the time has come when there should be a rule that people use car pools when coming into the city. This is nothing new even in the developed world where they not only fight air pollution, but where they recognise that the volume of traffic is actually a hindrance to daily production.

In neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago , the government has restricted the importation of vehicles largely because the economic boom has put vehicles within the reach of more people than usual.

We are not as affluent as the people in the twin-island Republic but we do have people that could be considered among the wealthy in any part of the world. We also have people who could afford vehicular transport largely because we import old cars.

There was a time when car imports were limited to vehicles no more than five years old. The late President Cheddi Jagan changed that. What might have been a good move then is now a problem. Perhaps we should restrict vehicular imports but then again the government may conclude that its revenue base would be severely affected.