The holiday season always brings something added to many. Generally, that could be financial challenges to meet the added demands for gifts, household needs, and preparations, at least for those caught up in the spirit. For businesses, added efforts to decide what new to make available, display and even staff.
That aside, the trend in increased criminal activity unfortunately never fades and added Police presence in the main towns has become routine. That’s designed to make all feel an added sense of safety. Very noticeable at this time is the increase in traffic congestion, especially in the capital city of Georgetown.
There is a distinction between increased traffic during this period, which adds to ambience of the season, and the characteristic congestion of the city throughout the year. The added and unbearable congestion at this time makes getting around a nightmare. This results from various reasons.
Over time, the pavements have become jostling grounds for vendors and pedestrians, often forcing the latter onto the carriageways for vehicles. That in turn slows the traffic as they compete for space. With the shoulders overrun with parked vehicles, whenever one stops it means that those behind have to do likewise.
This is exacerbated by the continual indiscipline of some drivers, especially those with minibuses, stopping at any point in total disregard for others. Designated bus stops have become obsolete from a combination of indiscipline and lack of enforcement by the Police.
Another major contributing factor is the narrowness of most of the streets. They are made even narrower when inconsiderate drivers park on either side. This is further compounded by the indiscriminate double-parking which has become a norm.
Very often, a vehicle stops to allow someone to make a purchase causing everyone else behind to wait for that transaction to be completed, especially when the traffic is continuous in the opposite lane. This happens every day in almost every part of the city. Guilty drivers just sit totally unconcerned, ignoring the blaring horns which bring attention to their transgression.
The situation worsens in the vicinity of bars and liming spots as the vehicles spend a much longer time being parked. Similarly, in some streets, especially around Bourda Market, it appears to be drive-thru shopping at the expense of those who use them as necessary routes. The result is the same; an unnecessary and extended wait and added frustration.
Had the parking meter system not been imposed with its draconian by-laws and exorbitant fees, it could have been one measure to help eliminate the double-parking phenomenon which would have resulted in more road space available for traffic flow. Also, it could be a deterrent to parking on narrow streets. However, in the absence of that, the onus falls on the Police to intensify and sustain their clampdown on traffic violations.
While they cannot be everywhere, it would be not farfetched to expect a more robust approach in the high-traffic areas to ensure that traffic laws are adhered to. There could be a multi-faceted approach with advisories and enforcement. As is, if unfortunately, there is an emergency in parts of the city, getting out could be catastrophic.
The Police also have their work cut out given the volume of traffic and the challenges noted, however, the laws must be seen to be enforced to ensure a constant flow of traffic. Commandeering traffic lights, though useful, will not solve the problem. Given the volume of traffic and layout of the city, any one narrow side street that becomes congested can lead to a long build-up elsewhere.
If the Police were to professionally and consistently enforce the existing traffic laws and make it public through the media and other means, there is a great chance for some improvement in the current snail-paced flow. Similarly, if the potholes in almost every city street are fixed, the traffic will move faster.
The intersection of Mandela and Homestretch Avenues in proximity of a major embassy, is an example of how poor roads slow traffic. Like the Police, those responsible for the upkeep of roads must deliver in a timely manner and consistently.
Another area of concern is the masqueraders who appear not to be so concerned over the art form, but more on getting occupants of vehicles to donate. While it is part of the festivities, over the recent years, this has gone beyond that to simply soliciting funds. Given that priority, it is no surprise that the traffic is brought to a halt where they flounce or pretend to.
There is a question of whether that is obstruction of traffic. Should permission be sought? And if so, should there be consideration of the roads requested in the context of high-traffic areas? If permission is granted, then it should be monitored for adherence.
That may sound like added tasks for law enforcement, which will in turn point to the need for added ranks. While an important point, the woes of all who traverse the city will be added upon if efforts are not increased to resolve the congestion for each component that adds up.