Beep, (Bleep), Honk: Reporting from 
the traffic jam

Thousands of Grand Cayman commuters experienced substantial delays on their way to work during Wednesday morning rush hour, the aftermath of a fatal motorcycle accident on West Bay Road that took place at 11:50 p.m. the previous evening.

On an island as underserved with roads but overpopulated with automobiles, trucks, pedestrians, bicycles and, yes, motorcycles, a traffic jam following even a small accident can quickly congest every other vehicular artery (capillary?) for miles around as motorists scramble for alternative routes.

In this instance, however, the major commuter roadways (including the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, all roundabouts that must be traversed coming in from West Bay, and the single-lane passageway through Camana Bay) were still at near standstill more than eight hours after the accident occurred.

Various staffers en route to the Compass Centre report there was nary a policeman in sight directing or facilitating traffic. Nevertheless, on the “Caymankind side,” motorists were observed displaying both patience and courtesy, letting their fellow drivers weave into their traffic flow.

Although police had been on the scene of the collision since about midnight, it is understandable that investigators kept that section of the road closed to traffic during the morning rush hour. After all, an investigation into a death, particularly when another person has been arrested in relation to it, should have the benefit of broad daylight. Even the inconvenience caused to great numbers of motorists must take a backseat to legitimate and thorough police inquiry.

We don’t dispute Chief Inspector Angelique Howell’s statement in which she acknowledged that traffic slowed to a crawl but that “the road closure was necessary … but we [were] dealing with a death and, unfortunately, police investigation takes time.”

Nevertheless, we think the police could have handled this traffic scene better. A simple indication that one was approaching a blocked road — perhaps a “detour” sign, a whistle-blowing officer or a barricade with an arrow — might have alleviated much of the congestion and chaos.

Motorists should not be forced to proceed to what is, in effect, a dead end, then have to make U-turns or execute other evasive maneuvers once they are virtually on top of an accident scene.
Likewise, with cultural celebrations in downtown George Town, streets are often blockaded long before — and long after — the events actually take place.

In terms of public relations, a little increase in police sensitivity to these issues would go a long way, since they so often affect thousands of drivers and their passengers.

Let’s face it: All of us are doing our best to deal with a road system that is wholly inadequate, and unsafe, for the amount of vehicular and pedestrian traffic that congest it during peak travel periods.

Similarly, we consider it almost a daily miracle that more cruise ship passengers (many looking left when they should be looking right) are not victims of our crowded streets and narrow downtown sidewalks.

At this point, there are no easy answers, and more cruise ship tourists appear to be headed our way. Strategically placed (and smartly dressed) police officers directing traffic, we think, would serve the dual purposes of promoting our islands and protecting our people.

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