“Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.”
– Emmett “Doc” Brown, “Back to the Future”

OK, perhaps time-traveling scientist Doc Brown was a bit optimistic about transportation needs in the 21st century.

For now and for the foreseeable future, good old-fashioned roadways remain the primary component of a city’s transportation infrastructure.

A country’s roads can be likened to a body’s circulatory system. They are a conduit that enables the free flow of critical resources (instead of blood and nutrients – people and goods).

A well-designed, – maintained and – functioning transportation system breathes life into every corner of the community – increasing livability and facilitating economic development.

An unfortunate side effect of Grand Cayman’s great economic fortune is that as our population and household wealth have increased, so too has the amount of traffic, which at peak times (the beginning and end of workdays and school days) overwhelms the capacity of our road network, despite continual improvements, expansions and upgrades over the past several years.

Certainly, more robust arterial roads will help alleviate congestion and allow traffic to flow more freely.

However, there is a limit to how much asphalt, and automobiles, are desirable in our insular slice of paradise. (Where would you rather live or vacation: On the side of a seething highway, choked with noisy traffic? Or on the beachside, caressed by fresh breezes and murmuring waves?)

Solving the long-term riddle of traffic congestion requires creative thinking. Eventually, the mantra of “more roads, forever” will lead to a dead end.

Cayman is not alone in the struggle to help residents and visitors get from point A to point B as painlessly, even as pleasantly, as possible. Among the multitude of ideas and innovations out in the wider world of transportation, here are a few that merit consideration in Cayman:

1) “Complete streets” policies

There are many ways to travel, but too often, transportation planning focuses only on private automobiles. Incorporating infrastructure for “active transportation” such as bicycling and walking can encourage residents to use those alternate forms, removing cars from our busy roadways. In Cayman, that might mean, for example, improving existing road shoulders for use as bicycle/pedestrian lanes, connecting gaps in existing sidewalks, or planting shade trees to make paths more attractive and provide protection from the sun.

2) Strategic subtraction

Just as important as having roads where we need them is reducing or eliminating the flow of traffic where we do not. Diverting traffic from cramped and congested areas such as downtown George Town could reduce snarls coming into and out of the area, and can “pave the way” for pedestrian-friendly urban renewal that will encourage visitors and residents to linger downtown.

3) Rational and reliable mass transit

Cayman’s microbuses provide an important service to many passengers, but there is tremendous capacity for growth, especially on busy commuter routes. Identifying and eliminating barriers to bus ridership – whether it be schedules, routes, capacity or simple lack of knowledge about this transportation option – could help get more commuters out of cars and onto buses.

4) Incentives for behavior

While we generally disagree with governmental attempts to control personal purchasing decisions, we would support incentivizing the purchase of smaller cars, motor scooters or electric vehicles (which already have a lowered import duty of 10 percent) through reduced or eliminated tariffs.

5) Private enterprise

Even though infrastructure is not the responsibility of private-sector companies, employers can look to cope with predictable traffic congestion by examining policies such as flexible hours, staggered shifts, employee car pools or remote work schedules. Employers might encourage active transportation by adding bike racks and basic shower facilities for employees who cycle or walk to the office.

Traffic congestion and unsightly roads are more than a drive-time irritant. Left unaddressed, those problems could impede our country’s economic growth, diminish our islands’ attractiveness as a tourism destination and detract from residents’ quality of life.

When envisioning a highly effective transportation system that is uniquely suited to Cayman, our leaders should not be afraid to switch lanes, shift gears or explore routes that are “less traveled” but more scenic.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. I wonder if people might like commercial and other Gov’t offices in the middle of the island? Today we have everything in George Town. Why not decentralize and create more places to work and play nearer to Ironwood and Health city? Why not create more schools out of town maybe closer to Clifton Hunter? That would eliminate half of the traffic flow going to town?

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  2. Cycling to work?

    A common objection is that it’s just too hot and humid, not to mention rainy some days. Would employers provide showers for arriving workers.?

    But there IS a solution.

    E-bikes. These are battery powered bikes with pedal assistance. They have a range of about 30 miles, adequate for a commute even from Northside to George Town provided the removable battery can be recharged at work.

    All it would take to kick start this easy solution to our traffic problems would be the removal of duty on all bicycles, regular and electrically aided.
    Plus some help from employers for safe bike storage and permission to use company electricity to recharge them, just regular 110v that could even be done under ones desk.

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  3. Excellent editorial. Unfortunately this would fall on deaf ears in the absence of a masterplan for the Grand Cayman roads network improvement and transportation masterplan to ease traffic congestion.

    But lets look at how it is done in Bermuda. Bermuda is much smaller territory wise and larger population wise. Some things work and some don’t in Bermuda. Their roads are also more treacherous.

    Public transportation in Bermuda is excellent. They move masses to work and from work. Why people use it? They are clean, air-conditioned and run on schedule. Their drivers are very skilled, they manage to stop inches from a scooter(s) in front of them.

    In Bermuda “For residents, only one private four-wheeled vehicle per person or family or household unit is allowed in Bermuda – and only when the person concerned can qualify by both residence and appropriately registered home or apartment unit.”

    What is not working in Bermuda? Scooters! The number of scooter involved accidents and deaths/injuries is enormous. I wish I could post a photo of one morning traffic so you could see that scooter drivers seems to obey no rules. It rains a lot in Bermuda making riding a scooter a challenge. There seem to be a different mindset of scooter drivers in Bermuda vs. those of France or Amsterdam.

    When I lived in Bermuda, I walked to and from work (from Trimingham hill) taking a bus when it was raining. Part of the walk was a paved trail shaded by large trees, the other half was inches from the very busy traffic. In the absence of an adequate number of traffic lights, crossing a road was quite a challenge. After having one too many close calls, I left Bermuda for good.

    What in my opinion could be implemented in Grand Cayman? Public transportation (not minibuses), vehicle ownership restrictions and shaded sidewalks. However, it is not going to happen anytime soon. For that, a totally different mind set is required from everyone. Next generation of politicians would certainly have fresh ideas and desires.

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  4. I have to completely disagree with your so called “strategic subtraction”. I live off South Church St and travel into town every day and have done so for decades. I do agree there is pedestrian congestion on cruise ship days, although as I have suggested several times, this can be markedly alleviated if the pedestrian crossings are regularly manned so that the cruise hordes are only allowed to cross in batches, allowing free flow of traffic in between. However the roads in central George Town are arterial and hence essential to traffic flow. Every time we have an “event”, no matter what time of day, when Harbour Drive, Cardinal Ave and or Fort St are closed off we immediately get total gridlock in central George Town with long delays on all alternative routes. Your “solution”, far from “reducing traffic snarls”, will have the exact opposite effect. Just wait until the next “event” and have your editorial writer try to drive into downtown George Town and you will see what I mean.

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    • Roger I agree with your point , but Government don’t care about you or anyone else when those $$$ are flowing towards the jewelry stores on cruise ship days .
      It sounds like Government needed to have been addressing the traffic problem long time ago.

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  5. Here is my two cents worth. What about more carpooling and less parents driving their offsprings to and from school instead of letting the school bus do it for them? Bigger is not always better. Why are there so many huge American cars, SUVs, and luxury pickup trucks on the narrow congested street of Cayman? Does one really need these gas guzzlers especially with the high price of gas? How long and wide is the island? Granted a person has the exclusive right to do as they please and buy any type of vehicle they choose. But, are these monstrosities part of the problem? They are certainly not part of the solution. What’s going to happen in the future if a workable solution is not found? Yes, I know. In New York City where I live with a population of 8.3 million we have the monstrosities too. The subway system carries 6.5 million riders each day. But we also have a great many small and compact Hondas, Toyotas, Nissans, and Acuras, which are extremely popular. Many of these are used as taxis.

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