EDITORIAL – Roadside hazards: To be avoided at all costs

Police are still investigating the circumstances that resulted in the death of Geoff Cornwall, who was killed while cycling on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway this past Tuesday.

Mr. Cornwall, 56, was cycling toward West Bay early Tuesday morning when apparently his bicycle collided with the rear end of an SUV obstructing the bike lane.

We offer our condolences to Mr. Cornwall’s family and friends, who describe the Australian triathlete as gentle, humble and encouraging – a quiet leader and driven competitor.

Police have not yet revealed whether the SUV was occupied or whether the vehicle had been “parked” on the side of the road. By all accounts, however, the SUV was stationary when Mr. Cornwall struck it from behind.

Even as we await more specifics about this particular incident, there are several issues that seem relevant to address.

First, it is worth noting that Esterley Tibbetts – a new and modern roadway – has no hard shoulders or lay-by for vehicles. Motorists who wish to stop or encounter difficulty are faced with long stretches of roadway with no exit in sight – in short, they are given few good options for responsible action.

That being said, Cayman’s cavalier attitude toward illegally parked or derelict vehicles simply cannot continue to go unaddressed. Perhaps parking wherever one pleased and leaving broken-down machines helter-skelter all over the roadside was not such a hazard back when there were far fewer cars on the road. Those days are long gone. Traffic today is often an aggravating snarl – bad enough without adding an obstacle course of parked and abandoned vehicles just off (sometimes not even entirely so) the lane of travel.

Police must insist that motorists refrain from parking in bike lanes, on sidewalks, over curbs, obstructing roadways, and all other impromptu parking spaces. Department of Environmental Health crews must be more alert and responsive to reports of broken-down and derelict vehicles that have been abandoned by their owners.

(On West Bay Road, heading toward the fire station, one vehicle – a blue Suzuki Vitara bearing license tag number 133 958 – has been parked, dangerously, we think, for nearly two months on a major roadway without movement. Ironically, under the windscreen is a notice reading “Police Aware.” Frankly, we don’t think so.)

The point is that drivers must be held responsible for their vehicles. Full stop. If they need to stop or park, they must do so safely. If their vehicles break down, they should immediately arrange for them to be towed. Not the next week, not even the next day. Abandoning them is abandoning their responsibility.

This board has editorialized about allowing vehicles to litter roadways and vacant lots, calling them an “unsightly blight on the landscape of our beauteous isle.” We have noted that these vehicles attract vandals and thieves who strip them of any part they deem of value, not unlike hyenas picking over the carcass of a giraffe.

And we have pointed out the obvious – that in many cases, roadside vehicles endanger public safety. Whatever the details of last week’s fatal collision, those facts remain.