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Wednesday, Jun 03, 2020

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”.

“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.


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