The Saturday before Christmas, on what is usually one of the busiest retail days of the year, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service agreed to the closure of Harbour Drive between Cardinall Avenue and Fort Street.
The road closure took place between 11:30am and 4:30pm, disrupting traffic in all directions. Motorists heading out to do some holiday shopping in George Town were met with a long waits in backed-up traffic; and those just passing through to other places found their drive time unexpectedly extended.
Making matters worse was the fact there were two cruise ships in port that day. Because of the crowd and activities on Harbour Drive, passengers from those ships found it more difficult to make their way south from the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal.
The roads were closed to facilitate a Family Fun Day hosted by Island Companies and dms Broadcasting. The event was a partially a ‘customer appreciation day’ for Island Companies patrons, but also a fundraiser for the National Council of Voluntary Organisations. Some proceeds earned from things like face painting and street vendor sales went to the NCVO.
The street was closed to facilitate things like bouncy castles for children.
Although we certainly do not have an issue with a company trying to raise money for such a worthy cause as the NCVO, we have to wonder about the wisdom of closing off a major thoroughfare for five hours on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
Many other shop owners in George Town expressed their disapproval of the police decision to close the street, which they say disadvantaged their business that day. Given the challenging economic times, retailers certainly didn’t need this kind of disruption to their business.
What irked business owners most was the fact that many of them did not know the street was going to be closed until that morning. Although Island Companies advertised the event, that is no substitution for an official advance notice of police that a major road is going to be closed.
Streets in George Town seem to get closed quite often these days, often causing severe traffic problems. It’s one thing to close a street for a national function like the Queen’s Birthday honours or Pirates Week, but another thing when the closure is for the benefit of one business to the detriment of others.
Closing a key road in George Town on a busy Saturday in late December – even for a charity event – is an ill-conceived idea that never should have been approved by the RCIPS.