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Cyclists want safe zone on road
Members of Trinidad’s cycling community have launched an organisation called Share The Road T&T in tribute to former national cycling champion and coach Clinton Grant who was killed on the Audrey Jeffers Highway in March.
At a meeting attended by 150 cyclists and members of the T&T Roadrunners Club at Hasely Crawford Stadium, in Port-of-Spain, on May 28, board members spoke passionately about the need to educate motorists, encourage better road use from cyclists and create a safe zone in Chaguaramas where people can ride without fear of accidents.
Scott Fabres, a senior member of Team SR cycling club, kicked off the meeting saying, “We’re here because we have a problem on our roads. At the moment, you put on your cycling shoes, go out and you could get knocked down. We want to get on the road like everybody else and see some sort of law and order in place.” Grant was 42 years old when he died. He had been training a younger cyclist, Rosanna Abraham, when they were hit by a vehicle which had drifted into the shoulder lane.
Fabres and other members of the cycling community were at Grant’s funeral. “We shouldn’t have had to attend his funeral,” Fabres said. “Clinton was doing what he loved.” The situation, Fabres says, has reached crisis point. “If we accept it, the chances are we will be going to more funerals,” he said, before repeating what the priest at Grant’s funeral had said—“change will not come from those in authority but from all of us here today.”
“If we wait for the Prime Minister, the Minister of Transport and the Commissioner of Police it’s not going to happen,” Fabres said. He revealed that the group is working with the Chaguaramas Development Authority to create a “safe zone,” and that Minister of Public Utilities Nizam Baksh had agreed to install lighting at the circuit at Samaan Park Golf Club to increase safety for night rides.
“We are preaching to the converted,” Brian Ibrahim, owner of Fitness Centre gyms and founder of Team SR, told the meeting. “but how do we reach others?’ “Word of mouth is the best way,” he said, before adding that he had gone through some self-reflection following Grant’s death. “I’m starting with me,” said Ibrahim. “I no longer answer my phone when driving and I don’t text. We’ve all done it, don’t lie. Start by changing yourselves.”
Sheldon Waithe, another Team SR rider and Grant’s best friend said they would be campaigning to adapt the driving test to include cyclist awareness like in other countries. There are several cycling clubs in T&T. Knights rides round the Queen’s Park Savannah in large groups while SR ridse in Chaguaramas. Both clubs do longer weekend rides with between 25 and 50 riders.
“We don’t feel safe at all,” Waithe told the T&T Guardian in a telephone interview. “Most cyclists will tell you every time they go out to ride there’s either an accident or a close call. In smaller groups or solo you’re at even greater risk because you’re a lot less visible.” “We want to also look at ourselves as a fraternity and encourage our members to ride properly, we have to be diplomatic about the situation,” he said.
Speaking about problems encountered on the roads, he said: “We have a road carnage problem generally with speeding, lights being broken, cars coming up one-way streets. For cycling specifically the problem is two-fold—motorists are not aware of cyclists’ rights to use the roads and they’re not aware of best practice when they do encounter them on the road.” Waithe cited the “three-foot rule” when overtaking as an example of the kind of practice car drivers are generally ignorant of.
He said there is also hostility from drivers to cyclists, saying “in places like London there has been awareness raised. “In countries like Italy, Belgium, Holland these things are embedded in their culture and they have laws to back them up. If you hit a cyclist you are presumed guilty until you can prove yourself innocent.”
Share The Road TT has been founded as a registered company and is in the process itself into committees. It is urging all cyclists, runners and road users to volunteer to help.