Latest update March 20th, 2023 12:59 AM
Mar 07, 2023 Features / Columnists, Peeping Tom
Kaieteur News – Ever since the PPPC resurfaced and extended the West Coast to Parika Public Road, that particular artery has been turned into a racing circuit. All types of vehicles can be seen speeding and driving recklessly on that road link.
Yesterday there was a horrific accident which has so far cost the lives of four persons. A least half of a dozen more persons are hospitalised with injuries. This accident has pushed up further the country’s road fatalities. The year has started badly for Guyana in terms of road accidents.
The public can expect the usual response from the authorities. There will be countrywide campaign to arrest speeding on the roadways. This campaign will be undertaken for a few weeks and then, as usual, will fizzle out. The speeding will return, the reckless undertaking will continue and persons will flout the traffic laws with impunity. In other words, after the campaign, things will return to the road culture of lawlessness.
Speeding is not on the only factor accounting for the high road fatalities. All of Guyana’s main public roads run through villages and communities. This is quite unlike what obtains in other countries in other countries where there are so such developments along highways. Guyana’s road network was not designed to handle the number of vehicles which use them. And the government will be forced to fork out billions of dollars each year to keep building infrastructure to cater for the number of increased vehicles on our roadways. It will be like a dog chasing its own shadow.
Guyana simply cannot continue to be putting so many vehicles on our roadways each year. The cost of infrastructure to accommodate this increasing volume is going to absorb most of the country’s oil revenues, as it did in Trinidad and Tobago. Mass public transport is now totally absent in Guyana. And planning for this is now almost impossible given the greed of the business community that tries to gobble up available lands alongside every new major road link which has been built. The Diamond to Mandela road link should have made provision for a light rail that can move thousands of commuters during peak hours between Georgetown and Diamond.
A lane for a light rail along the East Bank of Demerara should have been contemplated when the four lane East Bank Public Road was under construction. The country main roadways should not have been widened. This only compounds the traffic problems as if evident in vehicles trying to get from the villages along the East Coast of Demerara to the southern carriageway. The government plans to extend the Railway Embankment and the Corentyne Highway are crazy. This will lead to more accidents and deaths will not solve the traffic problems in the country. Adding to the problems on our main public roads is the practice of approving businesses along the sides of these main arteries. The East Bank Public Road is now a mess. Businesses – legal and illegal – are springing up along the sides of most of the main public roads and this is part of the problem not only in relation to road congestion but in relation to road safety.
The number of new businesses being approved will create headaches for the authorities. It is time that a cap be placed on new application for businesses along main public roads. A cap also needs to be placed to stop the conversion of former residential premises into commercial lots.
Instead what should happen is that new commercial districts, away from the main public roads should be established. This will reduce the traffic on our main public arteries and thus reduce the number of accidents and deaths. The government had promised speed radars and other equipment to help reduce road accidents. But this is yet to materialise. Roadside vending is a major contributor to traffic congestion. The government has taken steps to remove encumbrances along the verges of the country’s main public roads. But it seems less enthusiastic to do the same in relation to roadside vending which is now being carried out with impunity.
All of this indicates the need to avoid the stop-gap measures which will surely be implemented in the coming days in response to yesterday’s horrific road accident. Instead of such temporary campaigns, the President should summon a meeting with stakeholders and hammer out a comprehensive plan to improve traffic management across the country. Unless this is done, the death count will rise. And this year, in particular, will see road fatalities reach record levels.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of this newspaper and its affiliates.)
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