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The killing roads
The Sea Lots community is still convulsing over the horrific tragedy which played out on the gauntlet that is Wrightson road. A young mother and her two daughters, in the blink of an eye, were killed when an off duty police officer lost control of his vehicle and ploughed into a number of people standing on the pavement at the side of the road. The community erupted, demanding the immediate construction of a long called for walkover to prevent further loss of life.
Strictly speaking, a walkover may not have saved the lives of that young woman and her children. I often see people chatting on the pavement at Sea Lots with cars whizzing by them at terrific speeds. Similarly, it is common to see people walking the entire length of the very narrow median in that area.
This terrible accident can perhaps force some considered discussion on infrastructural shortcomings and law enforcement. It is important to appreciate that this is essentially a highway which passes through a densely populated community. Motorists often sustain speeds attained on the Beetham Highway right down the lighthouse where many of them can be seen braking erratically upon realising that they are barreling into a potential bottleneck.
A few nights ago, I was approaching Port-of-Spain when two morons racing each other rocketed past my vehicle and on towards the lights at the intersection near to the Central Market. One of the speed racers clearly failed to spot a barely visible boy (inconveniently dressed in dark clothing) taking a chance crossing on the green light.
That young man found power in his legs I am sure he never knew he had and sprung right off the road and onto the relative safety of the median, clutching the traffic light pole in shock and horror. I estimated that the driver had to be travelling at a speed of 100 kilometres an hour and if he had struck that young man, his physical form would have been utterly obliterated.
Additionally, many of you are accustomed to seeing workers from NP and Bhagwansingh’s poised, as if in starting blocks in the stadium, trying to judge the best moment to run to the median. They can’t be bothered to walk all the way down to the traffic lights. So that raises the question, if a walkover is to be constructed in the area, where do you put it? Or do you construct two—one for the workers and another for Sea Lots residents?
This is what was done in El Socorro where people complained bitterly that it was simply too far to walk from Courts all the way to the existing walkover just to get to El Socorro south. A second walkover was built and I have almost never seen it used. I have, however, seen people creeping beneath that walkover with two 20-pound gas cylinders on their shoulders. What about a crosswalk with amber lights?
I am predicting that very soon someone will be killed on the crosswalk in front of the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Wrightson Road. Trini motorists have no respect for traffic control devices. The obvious solution would be to construct fencing to make accessing the highway difficult but designed to herd these pedestrians onto the facilities built to keep them out of harm’s way.
Well, something similar was attempted on the Cocorite highway several years ago following a fatal crossing. A wire fence was erected along the median to disrupt the flow of ‘bounce-me-nahs.’ What happened over time is that our people, determined to wade into the traffic, eventually pulled the fence down until it was hanging dangerously onto the highway. The concept, it seems, was abandoned when a vehicle crashed (as they always do) into the median and tore down much of the fence.
A similar situation can be found in Diego Martin where a walkover was constructed on the highway in the vicinity of the powder magazine no 2 housing complex. It was a state of the art, one of a kind, never did work. The elevators installed in this extravagant structure were more useless than the legs on the people they were installed for.
Recently, cell phone shutterbugs have been posting pictures of the decrepit state of the steel air bridge, advancing this as the reason behind people’s reluctance to use it. If memory serves, people were walking under that walkover the day after it was commissioned.
The challenge here is, not surprisingly, law enforcement. We don’t have the land space that other countries do to afford a wide buffer zone between settlements and major highways. We must rely on rigid enforcement of speed limits and quite possibly downward adjustments in areas where these road networks enter congested zones of human habitation. Additionally, we must levy penalties on errant pedestrians for scurrying across highways where there are walkovers available.
It is foolhardy to suggest that they ought not to be built because they aren’t used. What we need is proper infrastructure and enforcement to create a safer environment for both motorist and pedestrian.
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