Last week, the Ministry of Public Infrastruc-ture revealed the plan for the roundabout to be constructed at the circular junction where the Seawall Road (Atlantic Avenue), Rupert Craig Highway, Public Road Kitty, Vlissengen Road, J B Singh Road and Carifesta Avenue intersect.
It will be the first major roundabout to be built in the city where several thoroughfares which support large flows of traffic will converge.
The first roundabout was built in Letchworth Garden City in the United Kingdom (UK) circa 1909 and roundabouts have grown in popularity all over the world ever since, with France having over 30,000 today, and the UK possessing more per roadway than any other country.
At present, there is one roundabout within the city and a couple of circular junctions within close proximity. The roundabout on Water Street which encompasses the beginning of Church Street and the end of Company Path must be one of the most unique in the world, containing a parking lot within it; it has been in operation for decades in the heart of the business district. This area can quickly become a bottle neck as tractor trailers hauling containers exit from a nearby wharf bringing the flow to a virtual standstill, as the drivers manoeuvre their awkward loads.
The circular junctions around the Cenotaph and the St George’s Cathedral also facilitate the movement of traffic in a circular flow within the confines of the city. The former is controlled by traffic lights, while the latter, with two entries and three exits often turns into a quagmire during the rush hours, as traffic backs up on Avenue of the Republic (no driver seems to pay attention to the No Stopping In Box sign), thus, resulting in traffic backing up on North Road, oft times past the Cathedral.
In the first half of the last century, traffic circles were the rule of the day, with the entering traffic having the right of way and circulating traffic having to yield to it, which eventually led to more traffic entering the facility that it could have handled, leading to congestion and more crashes.
It wasn’t until 1960s that the Transport Research Laboratory in the UK developed the modern roundabout rules which give priority to traffic already within the circular flow, and were subsequently passed into law in 1966.
Benefits spinning off from the development of the roundabout include faster flow of traffic – less stopping and reductions in individual and queue delays, increased capacity, fewer collisions, fewer injuries and fatalities, and significant reductions in carbon emissions and fuel consumption.
The design for the roundabout at the Seawall junction shows two circular flows of traffic: an inner and outer ring. This system of traffic is often used quite successfully in the developed world, and even closer by in Barbados, where the drivers are careful, courteous, know and follow the traffic laws and Highway Code.
The Seawall roundabout will see the introduction into our road system of a rather complex variation of what the general population has become used to. This intersection connects two of the main arteries into the city, and two access routes from the city to the East Coast corridor. The junction will have four points of entry (hopefully with sleeping policemen), three exits, and two options to turn onto roads connected to the roundabout, without actually going through the spider’s web of conflux of roads; left into Carifesta Avenue from J B Singh Road, and right onto the Rupert Craig Highway from Public Road Kitty. The flow of traffic during the weekdays of school is extremely heavy, and the roundabout will no doubt help to facilitate its improvement.
Drivers will take some time to get accustomed to the dual rings of traffic and to develop the necessary skill set, including yielding to other drivers, proceeding with caution and courtesy, and the compulsory use of signals to indicate where they intend to exit. Herein lies the problem.
A casual drive through the city and its environs quickly reveals a wanton disregard for traffic laws, especially adherence to stop signs, traffic lights, traffic lanes, and the excessive use of horns by motorcyclists and minibus drivers. To adapt a phrase from Mark Twain, “They obey neither the laws of man-kind, God, nor their own.” These road users are apt to ‘undertake’ other vehicles at any moment, as is often the case when they race down Carifesta Avenue towards the city ‒ of course at a rate way above the speed limit ‒ change lanes abruptly without signalling and pull out into fast-flowing traffic likewise.
Are there any plans for overhead pedestrian crosswalks, for the many folks who flock to the seawall for the traditional Sunday afternoon stroll and to mingle with friends? Shouldn’t these be put in place now, rather than later?
The traffic police will have their hands full when the roundabout comes into being, as we look forward to the improvement in the flow of traffic into and out of the city. Can the minibus drivers slow down and obey the traffic laws? We look forward to the Seawall Roundabout at least attempting to begin the exercise of curbing their excessive speeding.