The regulation of traffic on the Demerara Harbour Bridge crossing in the mornings stands second only to the kind of order generated by a wild buffalo dash over crocodile infested waters. The insanity of our drivers who despise order and insult with impunity those who dare to embrace its principles; the callous, the coldhearted incompetence of the bridge coordinators who caress carelessness and court contempt for commuters; and the insufficient, ineffective service offered by our traffic department in maintaining a semblance of order on the roadways, combine themselves daily in a bid to strangle the living patience out of your otherwise immovable statue.
Driving up to the bridge most mornings you will notice a line and as good sense would dictate you join at the rear. You understand that orderly procedures produce predictable and desired productivity. You recognize the insanity in breaking the established sequence as the need for prompt arrival is the obvious objective of the hundred plus vehicles waiting in orderly fashion. That’s when you see the minibus zoom past on the other side of the double line (an offence in our laws) and he is followed by an entourage. The policeman ahead seems not in the least concerned about traffic violations at this point and instead of admonishing the lawbreakers he rewards them with a place in the front of the line. And there is the fool who thought order breeds progress. You are handsomely rewarded with an extra fifteen minutes of waiting time for the wisdom you possess.
What’s even more preposterous is the reason for the lengthy lines in the first place. The double lane didn’t start on time because it rained and staff came to work late. The 5.30 bridge opening schedule really was a 6 o’clock appointment so traffic never got moving until 6.30. The police failed to arrive on time to regulate the traffic so chaos controls the commute.
What does this mean for the commuter besides high blood pressure brought on by extreme exhaustion?
1. For every five minutes delay I have measured that thirty minutes is added to my journey to work. I have experienced delays for up to fifteen minutes for which this rule holds true.
2. For that further thirty minutes I spend approximately three hundred dollars more in gas.
3. My kids become fatigued with their endless journey to nowhere. I have even had reports of them sleeping in class lately.
Couple the above facts with the reality that my organization penalizes staff for late arrivals and you might understand why I am at boiling point on this issue.
I have a few recommendations that I believe could immediately arrest this problem. Though some of them are fairly obvious to all and sundry, I will make mention of them as their benefits have somehow evaded the people who matter most.
1. The double lane must start on time come hell or high water. Managers must put measures in place to ensure this occurs. Incompetence cannot be tolerated.
2. There needs to be more traffic ranks posted at intervals throughout the length of the lines leading to the bridge entrance. Line-breakers should, at the very least, be made to return to the back of the line.
3. Large trucks should be restricted from crossing between 7 am to 9 am.
4. The 5.30 am bridge opening has to cease. It’s impractical and illogical to cause so many people to suffer in order to facilitate two or three vessels. It is far easier for them to organize themselves around this schedule than for the commuters to adjust to the nightmare this opening creates.
My final suggestion mainly concerns the private sector. My working hours are from eight to five and whenever I have business to conduct, I either have to cram it into my lunch hour or wait until the weekend. My suggestion is that businesses move their opening hours to a more convenient time like ten to seven, so as to facilitate after work shopping. This would in turn spread the road use across a broader spectrum and reduce traffic build-up at places like the Demarara Harbour Bridge.