On weekdays, during the morning peak hours, when the movement of traffic along the East Coast corridor, heading into Georgetown, is at its heaviest, the railway embankment, covering the distance between Mon Repos and Sheriff Street becomes one of the high-risk stretches of coastal roadway. Between them, the embankment and the East Coast Highway share the burden of accommodating the heavy traffic that pours into the capital every day. The East Coast Highway is designed to accommodate the movement of traffic in both directions, simultaneously. The parallel railway embankment is not.
The decision, therefore, some time ago, to re-designate that stretch of railway embankment between Mon Repos and Sheriff Street a one-way, allowing for use only by traffic travelling west towards the city, was a sound one. It appeared that the decision had derived from the belated realization that the road was manifestly not wide enough to accommodate traffic flowing in both directions simultaneously, even at the best of times, let alone at peak periods. It should be added here that situation is made worse on account of the number of defective bridges along the embankment across which the traffic has to flow.
Unfortunately, what the facility of the west bound one-way during the morning peak period has done is to spawn a condition of recklessness that manifests itself in high-risk lane-hopping, where motorists alternate at dangerous speeds from one side of the road to the other in an effort to take advantage of whichever lane moves quicker at any point in time. You have to witness for yourself the changing of lanes at considerable speeds to understand the danger of serious vehicular accidents. That should not be allowed to continue to go unchecked.
But that is not all. The off-and-on nature of the presence of traffic police at points along the embankment has meant that the one-way system between 7:00 am and 9:00 am. is more or less left to monitor itself so that it has become commonplace for the one-way restriction to be ignored.
Imagine vehicles of all types hurtling west into Georgetown (between 7:00 am and 9:00 am using the entire railway embankment between Mon Repos and Sheriff Street only to be confronted at intervals by an assortment of traffic – cars, trucks, motor cycles, horse-drawn carts and pedal cyclists – ignoring the one-way restriction and heading in the opposite direction. It is a commonplace occurrence that sometimes manifests in instances of life-threatening brinkmanship. You can only hold your breath in anticipation as westbound vehicles refuse to surrender their right of way when confronted with oncoming traffic casually breaking the one-way restriction, the latter resorting to the limited stretch of parapet available only when a head-on collision becomes the only alternative.
Just this past week a near calamitous accident was only narrowly avoided when a delinquent pedal cyclist with two school-age children ‘on board’ was almost obliterated by a car heading into the city on the stretch of the embankment close to the University of Guyana exit.
It seems almost inevitable that in the fullness of time and unless the one-way restriction can be effectively enforced, ugly and fatal accidents could occur on that stretch of road. This newspaper has twice raised this issue directly with the Traffic Chief, suggesting in the process that the strategic placement of traffic ranks at points along the embankment could act as a deterrent to the delinquents. At those times when the one-way restriction is being flagrantly ignored there is usually no policeman in sight. We have, incidentally, in recent weeks, thrice witnessed the transgression of the one-way restriction by police vehicles. On none of those occasions was it apparent that the mission of the police was of an emergency nature.
All of this is happening when instances of reckless road use and sub-standard traffic management appear to be on the increase.
There are times when it seems (and we sincerely hope that we are mistaken in our assessment) that police assigned traffic detail are altogether indifferent to infractions that occur before their very eyes. It has, for example, become commonplace, for helmetless motor cyclists to go by policemen, frequently not with any great speed. Often, the reaction from the police is one of studied indifference.
The position of the Police Traffic Department on the issue of the tinting on windows and windscreens appears to be far from clear.
The railway embankment one-way issue is an example of an anomaly which this newspaper believes can be corrected by a deliberate campaign designed to deter and punish offenders. We believe that this is one of those obvious situations in which immediate action (the strategic positioning of traffic cops on sections of the embankment during the period that the one way is in force appears to be a good idea) can avoid accidents and save lives.