American tourist Harrison Zierenberg is the most recent victim. Vacationing here with family, the 16-year-old was struck by a Suzuki mini-van on Monday night as he was crossing the road outside the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort. The driver, a 66-year-old resident, was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving. The teenager was hospitalized with serious injuries.
The driver’s behavior in this particular incident is now a matter for police and prosecutors.
However, generally speaking, even those motorists who strictly adhere to the legal speed limit of 40 miles per hour on that strip become, potentially, dangerous drivers. That’s because the speed limit is far too high along the West Bay Road corridor, considering the density of development and the concentration of ambulatory tourists.
Simply put, automobiles and pedestrians don’t mix. The only deadlier combination is gasoline and alcohol. Pour all the ingredients together, and the result is the lethal cocktail we see on West Bay Road.
It is germane to point out the example of the Dart Group, the country’s preeminent property developer. When Dart determined to go ahead with its Kimpton resort, the first thing it did was to separate its future guests and residents, physically, from automobile traffic, even though it meant building a brand-new section of highway all the way to West Bay. (The free-flowing Esterley Tibbetts extension, not coincidentally, removes the primary objection one might have to slowing traffic on the parallel West Bay Road.)
Similarly, now that Dart has decided to move forward with its second tourist-oriented development, this one a part of the westward expansion of Camana Bay (which is itself a “safe zone” for pedestrians), the top item on Dart’s plan is a pair of expensive “underpasses” to ensure that motorists and pedestrians not only steer clear of one another, but won’t even cross paths.
Contrast that with Cabinet’s approach to the hazardous, but eminently addressable, situation along Seven Mile Beach. Following years of deliberations and a string of pedestrian deaths, a cross-departmental panel of government announced a plan to revise speed limits across Grand Cayman.
That was back in November 2013. The panel’s proposals were sent to Cabinet in February 2014, where they have lain dormant for more than a year now, casualties of what we’ll call “inaction via unnecessary complication.”
A serious beginning to resolving the safety problem on West Bay Road is, in reality, a straightforward, two-step process:
1) Lower the speed limit from 40 miles per hour to 30 or even 25 miles per hour. Cabinet could, and should, do it this afternoon. No more public consultations or island-wide speed limit reviews. Call out the sign painters and put up the signs.
2) Enforce the law, strictly. (Police can do it as soon as the new signs go up.)
One measure will not suffice in the absence of the other. First, Cabinet’s radar screen. Then, the police’s radar guns.