Make it stop

Eastern district commuters travelling west during peak traffic times will have to endure long queues for the foreseeable future.

“There are several things at play when it comes to the traffic coming from the eastern district,” said police media officer Jodi-Ann Powery. “It’s a structural issue, it’s a commuting issue, and it’s a driving issue as well.”

Since last week, members of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service traffic department have been deployed to help with the flow of morning traffic, specifically at the roundabout in Red Bay where police are seeing severe “bottle-necking”.

‘Dancing Policeman’ Fabian O’Connor directs traffic Monday at the Red Bay roundabout. Traffic congestion continues to be an issue plaguing motorists driving towards George Town from the eastern districts. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

“The eastern district is the most dense area on the island,” said Powery. “Most people live in that area, and they all work in [George Town]. So, what you find is that every single person is coming down at the same time and going home at the same time – every single day.”

Powery said in that collective horde of commuters are several people who either do not know how to use roundabouts properly or choose not to use them properly.

“A lot of times, people do not use the roundabout correctly,” said Powery. “Persons coming from Red Bay Primary should be coming into the inside lane, whilst persons coming from the East-West Arterial should be on the outside lane going around … So, that outside lane should be a constant flow.”

To help correct any misuse, the National Roads Authority has started to close off sections of the roundabout.

Powery said closing lanes is a cost-effective way to address the flow of traffic and deploying officers to direct traffic daily is far more expensive and less practical. However, until structural changes are made, Powery said the next best thing is for drivers to become educated on how to use intersections like roundabouts.

Whilst the police have been able to make a dent in the flow of traffic, it’s not been to the liking of everyone.

“We did receive one comment from a member of the public who did say that traffic was worse for them,” Powery said.

At the crack of dawn on Monday 7 Oct., Cayman Compass crew visited the roundabout at Red Bay. Over the span of two hours, traffic ebbed and flowed through the coordinated efforts of some six traffic officers. When the Compass crews joined the queue, it took 13 minutes to get from Prospect Primary to the roundabout at Red Bay. The same journey without traffic takes three minutes.

During the drive, traffic moved smoothest when drivers were attentive and focused on the road, which Powery said is another issue that can either help or hinder the flow of traffic.

“What we’ve seen is that people were more aware when police were around. People should not be using their phones while driving, especially while in traffic. You should also be attentive and courteous,” said Powery.

But even if everyone does drive attentively and uses the intersections correctly, traffic woes will persist. So commuters who hope to avoid traffic may have to find other ways to escape the long queues.

“We [the police] have been in talks with the NRA as well as the ministry responsible for roads and infrastructure, and as you will have seen there have been some developments along the East-West Arterial,” said Powery. “Until there are structural changes, people who want to get to work sooner will have to potentially leave home earlier.”

Another tip that Powery said could help lessen the traffic is using other means to travel to work, such as carpooling, cycling, or even catching a bus.

How to lessen the stress of traffic

  • Be attentive – Avoid using mobile phones, eating, or doing makeup.
  • When coming to a roundabout, choose your lane in advance.
  • Leave earlier to avoid congestion.
  • Carpool, cycle or use public transport.

4 COMMENTS

  1. It is good to know that the Compass is looking at the traffic situation coming from East End and keeping the public updated as far as possible. However, I really cannot believe that the Police have only received one complaint regarding the traffic situation whilst the officers have been on traffic duty. The tailbacks have been considerably worse and people are having to leave earlier and earlier in the mornings to avoid the queues. I believe that at least one school has changed its operating hours to accommodate parents who are leaving earlier in the morning also. This is not just a traffic issue.

    One of the biggest problems causing tailbacks at Savannah and at Red Bay/Prospect is the lack of lane control. At Savannah, there are two lanes, one which is supposed to serve school traffic and allow it to exit the main traffic flow. However this is being used as a dual carriageway and the merging of the two lanes is the main cause of the tailbacks at that point. If drivers who were not using the school would stay in the left hand lane and not use both lanes then the traffic would flow through easily and quickly.

    The other issue is at Prospect roundabout. Drivers wishing to turn left down Prospect Point Road and thereby bypass the dual carriageway are driving down the right hand lane and moving across to turn left at the last minute. This is causing severe delays to the left hand lane, which no-one then wants to use and so the issue is self-perpetuating. If drivers respected others, did not try to cut in at the last minute and moved over to the left lane in good time then it would reduce the delays into the left lane considerably and traffic would be free-flowing.

    There are of course other areas of concern with traffic build up but, credit where credit is due, on the journey home the traffic signals have considerably eased the flow of traffic on the bypass and down to the Hurley’s roundabout. Unfortunately it has created a nightmare for those returning from work and using South Sound.

    My last comment would be regarding the new traffic stop in town when approaching the Kirk Supermarket intersection from the west side. I am not sure what the introduction of a traffic light on the left lane is meant to achieve? Surely if traffic is free to move and turn left at this point it eases any congestion and drivers are free to turn left providing the road ahead is clear. However, the introduction of the traffic light and the “stop on red” means that even if the road ahead to turn left is completely clear of traffic, cars are held up at the light and therefore congestion will occur on the approach to the light.

    I am all for doing everything to improve the traffic situation on the roads of Cayman, and in some instances can totally appreciate the efforts of the Government in addressing this. However, some actions seem to have not been thought through, and other problems, such as lane control and moving over at the last minute, have not been addressed, to the knowledge of the public.

    Maybe a better idea would be to cap the inflow of vehicles on to the island, or to introduce a law which means that no cars over a certain age are allowed. This would certainly cut the volume of traffic immediately, and would mean that the quality and condition of the cars on the road was higher and therefore much safer for all concerned.

  2. Excellent point Mr. Tomlinson, totally agree; however, one can NEVER change the past despite knowing the root cause. This is akin to blaming past governments for the education system and future planning for our children, here we are. All undisputable facts, kicking the can down the road if you will.

    The solution also does not require an expensive consultant to solve the problem, like the ever-growing Mount Trashmore.

    In reading another article, https://www.caymancompass.com/2019/10/07/solutions-offered-for-traffic-woes/, I fail to see any suggestion that really addresses the number of vehicles on the road or any suggested policy which might allow for effectively managing the situation instead of adding more roads, more lights, more costs, more of the same stuff. And this is beyond thinking outside the proverbial box, the solutions are all in our face, policy, and administration.

    For example, every person on a work permit, supposedly transients, their spouse/partner and children, can all go out and purchase a car, no restrictions. Also, there are no restrictions on the resident population on car ownership, carpooling, or a workable public transportation system. Yes, we are an affluent society, but working with tiny landmass.

    My two cents … Some major paradigm shift on how transportation is view on our small fragile island needs to happen yesterday, and while I am on the topic of paradigm shifts, one needs to also happen as it relates to recycling just about yesterday too.

    Finally, I must applaud the public sector for making an effort in their recent bus transportation of civil servants to work scheme!

  3. This is unacceptable. I will be on the island in March and I expect this situation to be corrected by them. Also, everybody needs to start driving on the right side of the road people. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be the ONLY one driving on the correct side of the road.