Tuesday evening, logs, which at the time were being transported on a truck across the Demerara Harbour Bridge, fell off and disrupted traffic in the process. Not only was commuting across the Bridge affected for a period of time but also north and south-bound traffic along the East Bank Public Road. During that period, the traffic was either at a standstill or crawled as the build-up extended to the City of Georgetown and along thoroughfares in West Demerara.
It was another instance where thousands of commuters were grossly inconvenienced, especially at a time when workers and children are trying to get home. More than likely, the elderly, even some with illnesses, would have also been trapped, as well as those trying to reach the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) for a scheduled flight. It’s very possible that the movement of ambulances and security vehicles may have also been hampered.
Only in September this year, a barge slammed into the Bridge, causing it to be closed for a few days; one of those being the first of the new school year. Chaos ensued at the Georgetown and Vreed-en-Hoop Ferry Stellings as commuters flocked to access the services of speed boats to cross the Demerara River. In those circumstances, it becomes extremely challenging for commuters who must traverse from the East to the West Bank on a daily basis.
While some situations are not within the control of the Harbour Bridge management team, some are. In this latest incident, a seemingly small truck, fully laden with logs that protruded the back, crossing at what is considered rush-hour, should have immediately raised alarms with those with the responsibility to approve such crossing.
It was reported that the weight of the laden truck did not exceed the necessary limit and was therefore allowed to cross. While that may be so, it seems only one factor. Surely, from the appearance of the logs protruding, and knowing that the Bridge has an incline which, for that vehicle, could be seen as relatively steep, should have raised concerns of potential risks. In addition, the rush-hour commute should have also been taken into consideration.
It stands to question the related protocols the Bridge staff follow in such situations. Surely, there must be other factors aside from the weight limit. Sometime in the past, the Bridge might have not allowed certain types of vehicles to cross at particular times on the day. Reportedly, that’s regardless of whether the weight limit was not exceeded. If that was or is protocol, then the question of it not being adhered to last Tuesday is a cause for concern.
Those logs could have come tumbling down and collided with vehicles behind it with potential for serious injuries. That incident could have therefore impacted safety, which must be the foremost consideration at all times. It would be useful if the management of the Bridge would inform on the protocols alluded in the interest of safety and public knowledge.
The inevitable result of traffic being hindered on the Bridge is traffic chaos and an inconvenience through extended travel time. With regard to the traffic on the affected roadways in those circumstances, some inconsiderate drivers use all areas possible, including parapets, to jostle their way forward.
In the end, added congestion is unnecessarily created, which increases travel time and risks for accidents while endangering pedestrians. This has gotten worse over time and, very often, escapes Police radar.
In fairness to the Police, last Tuesday, at least at points along the East Bank roadway leading to the entrance to the Bridge, they were present and did their utmost to manage the flow of traffic. What is desperately needed in addition to that, are ranks roving on motorcycles to try and reduce, as far as possible, the added congestion created by those drivers who make walkways and parapets the roadway.
Such actions should not only be implemented when the Bridge encounters problems but whenever there is a traffic build-up for any reason. The related motorcycle patrols, as suggested, should be considered as part of the Police’s traffic control protocol to deal with such situations, especially when the Bridge becomes inoperable.
If it were to be implemented, sustained and necessary actions were taken against errant drivers, it will go a far way to bring some level of relief in the circumstances. Very often, there is literally no room for vehicles to move for long periods.
What appears to be forgotten in those situations, is the need for emergency services, including fire, to be able to have access since, in some cases, life could be threatened. That makes it even more imperative for the use of the motorcycle patrols to ensure passage.
While the Police are out in numbers when dealing with the challenges an inoperable Harbour Bridge pose, there may be enough, through past incidents, to necessitate a review of its holistic approach in an effort to be more efficient. That must also include recalibrating traffic lights to better suit routine rush and priority traffic. It could lead to a reduction in the number of ranks needed for traffic duty, ranks who could be made available to bolster other critical areas.