Five pedestrian overpasses stand out there on the East Bank. They long for the weight and warmth of those with enough sense to seek their sanctuary. It is a mainly unanswered longing. There is the one at Diamond – almost deserted. Three others at Providence, Eccles and Houston don’t do much better. And the structure at the Harbour Bridge (Peter’s Hall) is the only one sampled, and then not so enthusiastically nor consistently. A shame and waste, however considered.
Each of ten elevators (two at each overpass) came with a price tag of $77 million, and despite repeated promises, only two became operational late last week. Late, but welcomed. But what is the story with the rest? When will they be fully functional?
The construction of elevators was to ease access. Elevators are an unusual one; the well-travelled should recall that they are rarely seen in many places where overpasses are located, including those well-advanced and with lots of cash.
Police help with sidestepping overpasses, by failing to insist that those are the better options to cross. Actually, ranks assist with on-the-spot, and away from overpass, crossing. At the very busy Demerara Harbour Bridge crossing, though some use the overpass, many are still observed by drivers and other travellers doing their own thing, through the disturbing practice of jaywalking.
Again, ranks of the Guyana Police Force on duty studiously ignore those, who just as readily ignore the existence of an overpass. It is at this specific concentration of constant and heavy traffic from multiple directions that some discipline and order are necessary, if only to reduce the recklessness, the frustrations, and the disregard for order and civility.
Why is this not confronted on those crowded, sometimes high-speed thoroughfares? Why are those who breach safety rules rarely channelled along the right paths? Overpasses, where they exist? Those who breach unheedingly, from ongoing observation, are never in short supply. There is a swollen population of the reckless and adventurous, daring to challenge machines that don’t lose.
Pedestrians regularly seen risking life and limb, through intermittent invasions of vehicular paths, are now a part of local traffic culture. This puts hapless drivers at risk: inexperienced ones may not gauge or judge the tight spaces accurately, or navigate them safely: injuries result.
Injuries to drivers caught in the whiplash and backlash; the former in personal injury; and the latter with having to report to the station, with the distinct threat of a dreaded “dangerous driving” charge. Loss of time in the interminable station house wait; loss in confidence because of what happened; more loss of time in court, and then money with the possibility of a hefty fine, and in the really reckless cases, loss of freedom through imprisonment.
Meanwhile, most overpasses remain largely unused (the Harbour Bridge’s may experience some feet from now); but the others stand for the underappreciated and the long underbelly of things gone wrong here. It is part of the larger indiscipline, where every man is his own law, either by taking the law into his hands, or disregarding it. When overseas, Guyanese take every precaution and observe most rules. They are model presences, other than for a few hard cases.
The tragedy in the local environment is that upon returning to the homeland, and its unfettered cultures, Guyanese rush right back to their regular reckless, lawless disregard that is best exemplified by embracing rights not entitled to, and discarding the accompanying responsibilities that are part of every citizen’s duty.
They have observed nothing, learned nothing, nor wish to practice anything, but that which breaches both law and the rights of others. It is the way things have been, and which brings personal comfort, and is now simply too far gone to halt and then correct.
The misused and underutilised overpasses mostly exist as mute, but arresting, testimonies to much scarce cash spent, facilities sampled under duress, and good intentions gone wrong.
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