Anyone who drove a car in the seventies would know that, in 2009, if they are still in possession of a working vehicle that they use, this is a brand new country when it comes to the traffic culture.
Using a bit of exaggeration, one can say that you could have counted on your fingers the number of vehicles on the roadways in the sixties and seventies.
Now, we refer to a population explosion in Guyana. Only, we are not talking about sweet Guyanese babies, but nightmare drivers. Both the numbers of cars and drivers have multiplied exponentially. Speaking with a bit of satire in mind, we can say that the car population is way ahead of the real population.
These two factors that we didn’t have in the sixties now exist. It means, therefore, that the Government and the Guyana Police Force have to recognize the present reality and innovate. If they don’t, we may end up with a situation that is so chaotic that it may be out of the control of the authorities.
Let us briefly juxtapose the sixties and the new millennium in terms of roads and traffic culture. A majority of streets in Georgetown were narrow. They still are. But the danger of running into someone was greatly reduced in these two-way streets because (1) we didn’t have that heavy flow of traffic as we do now, (2) we didn’t have so many private cars on the roads as Guyana currently has, and (3) we did not have the superabundance of reckless minibus and taxi drivers that we have to live with all over Guyana at the moment.
So one can then derive that driving was a cool thing to do in those days. Take First Street, Alberttown. It was a two-way street in the sixties (it still is). It is a narrow lane, too intestinal for two-way traffic. But crashes were non-existent (almost) because there were so few drivers.
A nightmare has crept up in Guyana since President Desmond Hoyte opened up the economy. The lower and upper middle classes are now in possession of their own cars. The underground economy has seen many working class people owning cars, not to mention the influx of luxury transport from the moneyed stratum. But our intestinal two-way streets have retained their status since then. This is a case of failing to recognize changing reality.
We return to Alberttown to show how our authorities are not thinking. You have six streets in Alberttown. They are so named after their numbers. When these very roads cross over to Queenstown, they take on historical appellations, like Almond Street, Forshaw Street, Lance Gibbs Street etc. But they are still two-way lanes. They are too narrow for such a structure, given the population explosion referred to earlier.
All over Georgetown we see this anomaly. In South Georgetown, there are Hadfield, Bent, Durban, Norton and Princes Streets. These transport routes are onerous to drive on because of their two-way passage. Durban Street (it becomes Joseph Pollydore Street when it enters Lodge) cries out to be changed to a one-way route, because of its heavy reliance on the mini buses. Durban Street is a main passageway for mini buses.
Here is what we are suggesting: Convert the six streets in Alberttown to one-way flows. Do the same for Queenstown. Do the same for Hadfield (parts of it have been converted), Bent, Durban, Norton and Princes Streets. There seems to be a haphazard way of looking at narrow lanes by the Guyana Police Force. For example, what we have just recommended they have done in Newtown.
In that ward, Lamaha, D’Andrade, Da Silva, Garnette and Duncan Streets have been transformed into one-way zones. Why not do the same for other wards? It makes sense. Finally, when will the authorities turn their attention to a situation on Vlissengen Road that the years have rendered irrelevant?
If you are travelling south on Vlissengen Road, and you want to turn west into Queenstown, there are only two bridges you can do that on. Those very bridges also cater for drivers on Irving Street who want to turn east onto Vlissengen Road.
The result is a daily and nightly congestion of huge proportions, especially in the afternoon rush hours. We humbly suggest that the time has come for innovative thinking on our new traffic situation. That thinking is long overdue.
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