By Gerhard Ramsaroop
(This is the fifth part of five on the traffic situation)
In this final article of our five-part series, we list medium-term solutions (within 3 years) to problems that prevent orderly passage on our roads:
1. Revamp the licensing system completely and examine the feasibility of privatising the process under strict conditions and oversight. Renew licences only after a brief oral test and a basic physical (eyesight, hearing, reflexes). Upon expiry of the old red licence persons must take the full test to get the new one. After a serious traffic offence has been committed the driving test must be retaken. Preventative maintenance and first aid should also be taught.
2. Widen both carriageways of the southern end of Vlissengen Rd and Cemetery Road (between Front Rd and Princes St). This will allow two lanes of traffic to flow each way from Hadfield St to Mandela Ave (provided 34e under short term solutions is done).
3. Redo Dennis St from Eastern Highway to Vlissengen Rd completely, and make it a one-way major road from Sheriff St to Vlissengen Rd headed west. Move the traffic light from Garnett and Sheriff Sts to Dennis and Sheriff Sts. This route will be much more convenient than Garnett St since it will connect to Lamaha St.
4. Scrap the ill-functioning dual carriageway system of the EBD Highway in McDoom and Agricola making it a three-lane road, two headed north and one south. Alternatively, the barrier can be removed entirely making it into a wide 2-lane road. The operation of businesses coupled with too narrow shoulders and the lack of storage lanes and bus stops in these areas, too often unpredictably reduce the two lanes to one.
5. In Bagotstown, the concrete median should be removed, and the right lane of the eastern carriageway (headed south) dedicated to traffic crossing the Demerara Harbour Bridge. With the median removed, the two lanes headed north on the western carriageway can be shifted eastwards and would then be able to function properly. This arrangement must be clearly demarcated using signs on posts and overhead signs. For the remaining dual carriageways, storage lanes must be incorporated where applicable.
6. Re-engineer the junction at the Conversation Tree and Railway Embankment Rds. to become more normal (perpendicular) so that there is a better view of oncoming traffic. Presently, drivers have to turn their heads further to the left than normal, with that view often obstructed by the front passenger or left stanchion of the vehicle (picture A). The proposed change seen in picture B, would give the drivers headed north or south a safer view.
7. Establish properly functioning traffic courts in all three counties and in Linden.
8. Set up weighing stations to enforce weight limits on all heavy vehicles. Overloading damages roads and leads to premature failure of vehicle components (including tyres), none of which we manufacture, and adds unnecessary costs to our economy substantially.
The lack of weight restrictions has taken the greatest toll on the northernmost section of the Soesdyke/Linden Highway (from the glass factory junction to the Soesdyke junction), the East Bank Demerara public road and Mandela Ave. The north bound lane on these roads suffers excessively from potholes and sinking, requiring constant and costly repairs. Weight restrictions will not only reduce damage to roads, but also promote the use of vehicles with better weight distribution (multi-axle and articulated) and make it feasible for many smaller trucks (e.g. Bedford TK) that were run out of business by the oversized trucks to run once again.
9. Revise the tax structure on extra-large pickup trucks and SUVs (enclosed 4WDs) to be more punitive on persons who do not need them: for example, people who do not engage in agriculture or interior operations. Tax breaks can also be offered to persons who buy smaller and high fuel efficiency vehicles.
10. Contract reputable private mechanic shops and dealerships to inspect vehicles, again under strict conditions and oversight, so freeing police ranks to perform other policing duties. Raise the cost of fitness certificates to fund such a programme.
11. Set policies to promote articulated/semi-trailer trucks. Traditionally, rigid chassis trucks have been preferred to articulated trucks because of their better performance in bad conditions. Recent innovations such as sliding bogie trailers and various anti-jack-knifing technologies, along with lift axles and differential locks have, however, improved their performance substantially.
Articulated vehicles allow for a lower amount of trips with better fuel consumption (loads can be up to 50% more using the same amount of fuel as a rigid), better weight distribution (hence less damage to roads and lower tyre replacement costs), greater manoeuvrability, increased reliability (if a tractor breaks down, another can replace it and take the trailer) and lower costs to a comparable fleet of rigid trucks (one tractor can pull a variety of trailers).
Therefore, if articulated trucks are used wherever they have advantages over rigid chassis trucks, they can add economic growth with a lower environmental impact, and resulting in less traffic at the same time. It can also lead to the establishment of a meaningful trailer industry in Guyana.
12. Examine the feasibility of registering and numbering bicycles as was done in the past. Potentially, this could significantly reduce theft, increase revenue marginally and provide some employment.
13. Encourage drivers to adopt dashboard cameras. In Russia their use is widespread and encouraged by the authorities as a means to quickly and fairly dealing with traffic matters.
14. Introduce driving classes into the school curriculum for students 16 and older.
15. Introduce legislation to raise the current low insurance limits so there is better compensation for damages, injury and death from accidents.
16. Examine the feasibility of transporting timber and fuel via the Demerara.
Acknowledgements and Thanks:
All road drawings were done by Daraul Harris.
Contributors: Catherine Hughes (MP, AFC), Beverley Alert, Nikhil Ramkarran, Rosemarie Choo-Shee-Nam, Mercer Field, Janick Dai Arjune, Derek Kowlessar and Michelle Ramsaroop.
The many letter writers who have offered solutions over the years. Here is a random sampling:
Special thanks to my wife, Michelle, who stayed up many late nights working with me on this series of articles.
All errors, of course, remain mine.
Vibert Parvatan: Road Fatalities, Viewpoint, Catholic Standard, July 26th 2013
The Highway Code (UK, Revised 2004)