Schools snarl traffic

The start of the new school year has created morning traffic jams from Bodden Town to West Bay.

Chief Inspector Courtney Myles, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service’s Head of Traffic Management Department, agreed that the reopening of the schools was to blame.

‘There is no question the traffic is much worse since school started,’ he said.

If the traffic seems worse than it did last year, it probably is. For the past two years, students at the government high school were on a shift system where half of the students arrived at 8am, and the other half arrived at 10am. Now they all arrive at the same time, at 8.30am.

With four large schools all in close proximity and starting in the 8 to 8.30am time slot, commuters travelling Walkers Road and Smith Road in George Town are hardest hit by gridlock in arriving on time to both school and work.

The simultaneous influx of approximately 1,000 George Hicks students, 1,000 John Gray students, 640 at Saint Ignatius Catholic School and 340 at Cayman Prep & High School means morning commute times are doubling and even tripling.

Other areas of the island are also heavily impacted, with 425 students making their way each morning to John E Cumber Primary in West Bay; 170 to George Town Primary; and a total of 1,125 students to the Red Bay, Prospect and Savannah primary schools.

Several other private schools have now reopened for classes as well, including the new location for the Cayman International School in Camana Bay along the Esterley Tibbetts Highway.

Chief Inspector Myles said there were other reasons for the traffic slowdown as well. Police are out in force, patrolling pre-identified roads such as West Bay Road, the Esterley Tibbetts Highway and Shamrock Road as part of the StreetSkill: Operation Back to School campaign aimed at enforcing school zone speed limits and safe driving.

‘We are out there supervising critical zones, and while that means students are being protected from speeders and careless drivers, traffic is now moving a lot more slowly.’

Mr. Myles said officers will be on the streets during this campaign as long as necessary.

Operation Back to School is already catching speeders. In one 24-hour period this week, the RCIPS cited 20 people for speeding violations, the highest being a driver clocked at 72mph in a 25mph zone.

The RCIP’s Superintendent of District Operations Fabian Sambula said the traffic problems were to be expected.

‘We want everyone to stay safe on the roads of Cayman and as the school term commences, it will come as no shock that roads will be busier at certain times of the day,’ he said. ‘Please give yourself extra time to make your journey to allow for any delays you may encounter – and be patient.’

Mr. Myles said car pooling and more flexible working hours may offer the best long-term solutions to Cayman’s traffic woes.

‘What would really help is if people started considering carpooling – five people living in one household should be able to work something out, for instance.’

Mr. Myles also remarked that traffic problems are greatly exacerbated by current workday hours.

‘Staggered working hours would be a great help, as it would allow traffic volumes to ease at critical times.’

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