One could almost hear the groans of dismay this week as Cayman’s gridlock-weary drivers learned that annual vehicle imports have doubled in the past decade, potentially adding thousands more cars, trucks and SUVs to our already-congested roads.
As the Compass reported, 4,457 vehicles were imported last year, up from 2,298 in 2009, with the most significant increases in the past five years – far surpassing the number of derelict vehicles that were processed at the George Town landfill over the same period of time.
It does not take a mathematician to calculate the net result: A proliferation of vehicles on Grand Cayman which, if not the source of our traffic woes, can certainly not be helping. Extrapolate the numbers a few years and it is not difficult to imagine a full-blown ‘car-tastrophe’, bringing to mind Will Rogers’ famous first law of holes: “If you find yourself in one, stop digging.”
Put another way, when your island already is struggling with overwhelming traffic congestion, perhaps you should consider importing fewer cars.
But, as several Compass readers pointed out in online comments to the news article, drivers, not cars, are at the heart of Grand Cayman’s traffic problem. As Jared Yochim wrote in one such comment, “Even if you own four vehicles, you can only drive on the roads with one at a time.”
Even more pointedly, this editorial board would trace the problem back to a transportation network that offers few safe, reliable alternatives for people looking to get from point A to point B.
After all, it is telling that personal vehicles continue to be the go-to choice for most residents and many visitors, even if it means enduring stop-and-go traffic on logjammed roadways crammed with hundreds of other drivers doing the same.
Clearly, a ‘radical new approach’ to public transportation must be part of the solution, as Premier Alden McLaughlin asserted in his Strategic Policy Statement in April. We anticipate that the National Roads Authority’s commitment to ‘complete streets’ – which support safe use by pedestrians and cyclists – will also help.
The NRA recently announced it will install lighted pedestrian crossings along the CNB roundabout arteries and the new roundabout at the intersection of Crewe Road and Printers Way. The NRA says the system, a pilot scheme intended to improve pedestrian safety and minimise traffic disruptions, will be identical to the lighted crossing on Elgin Avenue between the Government Administration Building and the offices of Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman.
Just as the designated sidewalks that have been incorporated into that road improvement project, we believe the lighted crossings are a wise investment that will not only help separate pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic, but could also encourage more residents to walk or cycle the short distance rather than hopping behind the wheel.
The shaded path under construction alongside the Esterley Tibbetts highway near the National Gallery is yet another example of the types of modest infrastructure improvements that could go a long way towards untangling Grand Cayman’s traffic headaches.
More than anything, all these efforts must be part of a comprehensive, forward-looking plan.