EDITORIAL – Motorists snarl about event-related traffic snarls

Downtown drivers received an unwelcome surprise last Wednesday when blocked streets caused traffic headaches far surpassing even the usual evening gridlock.

The worst part is, the jam was entirely preventable. With advance warning and more thoughtful scheduling, drivers would not have wasted so many extra minutes behind the wheel.

Certainly, it was a fine impulse that inspired the National Museum and the Department of Children and Family Services to hold a special event honoring the wisdom and value of our elders in celebration of Older Persons Month. We only wish that organizers had not opted to hold the event on a weekday during peak drive time on some of George Town’s busiest streets.

Scheduling the celebration for a different time or over a weekend would have minimized the interruption. A different venue might have avoided the conflict, altogether. With ample warning, many drivers might have chosen alternate routes that evening, saving themselves unnecessary stress.

As it stood, organizers’ choice to hold the celebration from 3-6 p.m. on a weekday directly interrupted the normal flow of traffic not only on the closed segments of Harbour Drive and South Church Street but also all the tributaries feeding into those arterials. Further complicating matters, the public was not informed that the roads would be blocked off for the celebration until 12:30 p.m. on the day of the event – too late for too many to receive the news.

The Compass frequently publishes information about road closures and detours. Those important notices may not be particularly glamorous, but they significantly impact great numbers of our readers. Unfortunately, when notices are issued too late, there is little we can do.

We understand why downtown George Town is a preferred venue for a multitude of celebrations, commemorations and events – from the Queen’s Birthday to the opening of the Legislative Assembly to street dances and parades. The central area is replete with appealing and symbolic backdrops, from the National Museum to the waterfront, the seat of government and Heroes Square. But its structural limitations also must be taken into consideration. Our island has many underused and equally appropriate venues – which may have better amenities, such as parking, ease of ingress and shade.

In every case, motorists should have several days’ notice about planned traffic diversions, complemented by temporary signage that warn of road closures well before barricades come into view.

After last week’s traffic snarl, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service announced it intends to tighten requirements for event-related road closures. They ask that organizers submit requests at least a week in advance, which will give the department more time to evaluate and accommodate requests.

Police vow to post notices about events-related road closures on the department website and inform local media “as soon as practicable.” The Compass will gladly do our part to spread the word.

But perhaps the “Cardinal Rule” for Cardinall Avenue (and its nearby environs) is that organizers must be timely in making their requests for road closures and those who grant or deny those requests must weigh the public and community benefits against the disruption and inconvenience caused by each road closure.

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