Saturday, April 20, 2024

We’re lagging behind on highway safety

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“If you are driving, be aware that the roads on the island are generally quite narrow, with the exception of the ABC Highway. It is advisable to be extra cautious as many roads on the island have sharp turns, steep inclines and are generally quite bumpy, although most are paved.

“Many of these ‘highways’ do not have sidewalks, so there can be pedestrians on the street sharing the road. Many bus stops are also on the side of roads where there are no sidewalks. Additionally, beware of impromptu passing lanes as slow drivers are often passed by others behind them when on two-lane roads. Road signs can be fairly confusing, so be prepared to get lost: just keep your petrol tank topped up and keep asking the way as people are always eager to help . . . .

“Mopeds and bikes can also be rented to explore sites not easily reached by cars. This is not recommended however due to the poor condition of many of the secondary and residential roads. Except for the main highway, all the other roads provide a hazardous journey to the moped or bike rider due to no sidewalks, frequent potholes, sharp corners and speeding local buses. – Wikitravel

 

It is indisputable that a large percentage of the tourists who visit Barbados, and who return time and again, do so because of the quaintness of our island. Surely, if many of them wanted to be confronted by rushing traffic on six-lane highways, billboards everywhere, everyone in a hurry on the street and so on, they would remain where they live.

Our narrow streets, unique way of giving directions, each street corner shared by a rum shop and a church, children walking three abreast on the street in their neat school uniforms and so much more separate us from the metropolitan centres of the world and continue to make us attractive.

The growth of, and easy access to, the Internet, however, means that when these features are considered quaint by some but uncomfortable for others, our country can end up with reviews with the potential to turn away potential visitors. We have to be careful to ensure that, to the best of our national financial ability, our development keeps pace with the needs of the country.

It may be quite a breathtaking experience for the tourist who, driving himself around the country, happens upon Cotton Tower and Bowling Alley in St Joseph. He will no doubt count it a “to-die-for experience”, having successfully descended the narrow winding road through the hill. Unless he tries it a second time, he may never again have such an experience in his life.

That same tourist, however, having encountered a couple near-misses, the norm on Highway 1 – given that while the road is a little wider, the traffic lane for most of its length is shared by some of the largest vehicles on the island and thousands of pedestrians daily – might find it hard to recommend the island to a friend who prefers to drive himself.

The level of safety on many of our major roads, but especially on Highways 1 to 6, given their heavy use, should never exist in 21st century Barbados. We are lagging behind much of the world in this area and it is certainly not beyond our capacity to effect meaningful improvements. We do not find this aspect of Wikitravel’s description of our island flattering. Unfortunately, it is largely true!

 

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