Speed limit immobility: Sign of the times

It is difficult to think of an act of governance more simple than setting a speed limit. Our officials’ continuing inability to achieve this simple objective – i.e., changing a few signs – is another piece of evidence that the delivery of basic public services in Cayman is increasingly bureaucratically paralyzed.

Pardon us if we embellish a bit. But our government’s years of inaction on speed limits, despite multiple deaths and injuries on notoriously hazardous stretches of road, has exceeded our limits – of tolerance.

To review, the first People’s Progressive Movement administration (from 2005-2009) entertained proposals to lower the 40-mile-per-hour speed limit on West Bay Road and to install pedestrian crosswalks. Several crosswalks have now been installed, but the speed limit remains the same.

In November 2013, the National Roads Authority and associated Traffic Management Panel launched a public consultation process, unveiling an island-wide map of proposed changes to speed limits on various roads across Grand Cayman, including reducing the speed limit on much of West Bay Road from 40 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour.

The authority’s plan was placed before Cabinet in late February or early March 2014 – nearly a year and a half ago. In April of this year, following a serious accident on West Bay Road that left a teenage pedestrian in critical condition, Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts said the speed changes on West Bay Road would take effect in May. That deadline, obviously, has passed.

Now, the NRA says the speed limit changes are “in the hands of the ministry,” whose officials in turn say they hope to effect the alterations by mid-September, meaning a month from now. What, we ask, is taking so long?

Further, how is it that something as straightforward as speed limits needs to be handled by so many distinct entities throughout government – NRA, its special “Panel,” the ministry, Cabinet, etc.? We would think that this issue could be managed with a traffic engineer’s study and bullet-point list of recommendations, followed by a cursory examination and stamp of approval by the relevant officials. After the initial analysis and report have been completed, the lengthiest step in the procedure should be the physical act of changing out the signs (meaning, maybe an afternoon’s work, including drive time).

Fundamentally speaking, we are skeptical that altering digits on signage will impact the behavior of problem motorists – particularly in the absence of the requisite enforcement of the law by police. However, in the spirit of Napoleon Bonaparte: “If you start to take Vienna – take Vienna.”

Our officials’ lethargic approach to speed limits is merely one illustration of public sector slothfulness on a range of issues, many of them of far greater complexity and magnitude, including the George Town landfill, pensions, healthcare obligations, sewage, real education reform, affordable housing, and even the much-ballyhooed National Conservation Council, to name a few. And, oh yes, let’s not forget the implementation of the “EY Report.”

We at the Compass are supporters of proposals to “slow it down,” in terms of vehicular velocity on West Bay Road, but not in regard to governmental processes.


  1. What’s wrong with this government? I think that this government is working like a mechanics shop that says that they are a stop shop that can fix it all, but when you give them your car, they only know how to fix one thing on the car, and don’t want the qualified people to be working in the shop because that would make the slogan true and honest.

  2. This is the link to a live press conference on International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP) Launch, Jan 16,2014, 39 minutes of talking. https://youtu.be/3BCNucoB8ug

    Preliminary Star Ratings and safety investment options for 200km of roads in the Cayman Islands have been presented to key stakeholders on August 12, 2014.

    Thus is a link to the Compass article "NRA launches new road safety initiative". http://www.compasscayman.com/caycompass/2014/01/17/NRA-launches-new-road-safety-initiative/

    And this is from NRA website.The Cayman Islands recorded nine (9) road traffic deaths in 2011, equivalent to approximately 16.5 traffic deaths per 100,000 inhabitants and almost double the WHO’s 2013 figure of 8.7 traffic deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in High Income countries. Between 2007 and 2011, an average of over 1,400 accidents were recorded on Cayman Island roads per year, resulting in 40 deaths and 113 serious injuries. New road construction or rehabilitation projects in the Cayman Islands incorporate road safety feature into their design, however there remains a myriad of associated difficulties related to road infrastructure, institutional capacity, inadequate equipment, vehicle quality and driver. behavior.http://www.caymanroads.com/index.php?option=com_deeppockets&task=catShow&id=107&Itemid=30

    In my opinion this is in legal terms exhibiting a reckless disregard for the safety of others, such as a failure, after knowledge of impending danger, to exercise ordinary care to prevent it or a failure to discover the danger through recklessness or carelessness when it could have been discovered by the exercise of ordinary care.

  3. The road assessment project will cost US$155,000 NRA said in 2014. How much was actually spent? And where is the final report, where a member of public can find and read it?

  4. I am in total agreement of the views and facts expressed in this editorial. This type of situation makes people have little or no confidence in government officials to act in the best interest of the people. For example, as stated, the Planning Minister said the speed changes on West Bay Road would take effect in May and we are now in mid August. Maybe he meant May 2016?