Monday, April 22, 2024

AWRIGHT DEN!: The law and PSVs

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LAST WEEK, I SHARED that I realised I hadn’t been fair in my assessments or writings about ZR and minibus workers. Today, I hope to give a fairer account or, better yet, a balanced assessment.

Despite what I am going to share, I still hold to most of what I would have written in past articles, especially when it comes to deportment, dress code and hygiene; drinking and driving; lewd and violent music; and an established structure or procedure one must adhere to in order to be certified a public service vehicle (PSV) professional.

I got off the 6 a.m. ABC Highway bus at the stop just before the Clyde Walcott Roundabout (Hothersal) and proceeded to walk to the next bus stop, which was about 240 metres away, to take another bus, minibus or ZR to my destination. As I was approaching, I could see a ZR, which would take me where I needed to go, coming around the roundabout.

I had to make a decision to either (a) put out my hand and stop the ZR or (b) let it leave me because I wasn’t at a bus stop. Honestly, the decision was a no-brainer and I waved at the driver, indicating my desire to catch the van. The driver exited the roundabout, pulled to the shoulder, and a mature woman and I took a short jog, got in and we were on our way.

Stopping the ZR other than at a bus stop meant I was participating in breaking the law and I knew that. However, I knew that the driver wasn’t going to drive to the bus stop some 200 metres away and wait for me to walk there.

Neither was I going to allow the ZR to go without me since it would have meant my waiting 45 minutes to an hour for the Transport Board bus to come.

One morning I caught a ZR and it made a turn I wasn’t familiar with. I immediately asked the driver if I was on the right van and he said yes. He said he was just dropping off workers at their workplaces and then would be back on route. If the driver had dropped the workers of these establishments at the designated bus stop, they would have had to walk 15 minutes to their work.

The driver took a risk, as stopping other than at a bus stop and going off route could have resulted in a ticket. Unlike that of Transport Board drivers, their salary isn’t guaranteed, so I understand this kind service, though illegal.

I have observed ZRs and minibus drivers dropping old people and people carrying groceries at their doors, or at the top of their gaps, which isn’t at a bus stop.

When the rain is falling, they often try to facilitate their passengers and drop them as close to their destination as possible so they wouldn’t get wet. Many of them would stop outside a day nursery to allow a parent to quickly drop off the little one, and the parent gets back on, and off they go.

I know of a situation where a ZR driver had just picked up passengers at a bus stop, and as soon as he drove out of the bus lane onto the road someone shouted: “A lady coming,” and the driver stopped immediately.

A woman, well dressed in work clothes, was seen with umbrella and bags running to catch the ZR. As soon as the woman got in, a police vehicle pulled up, activated the siren and the police officer reported the ZR and told the last passenger who had got in to get out.

There’s so much more I want to say but I am out of space. Maybe, I can ask my friend Corey Lane to facilitate a discussion on this topic during one of his Brass Tacks sessions.

Minibuses and ZRs are a staple in the life of Barbadians and play a vital role. They provide services and acts of kindness which you will not receive from the Transport Board.

I believe the law should be upheld and enforced, but some infringements need to be assessed based on the situation. The law and regulations need to be analysed to see which need cancelling, which need amending and which create a system that encourages lawlessness.

I hope Mr Morris Lee, his team and the ministry are able to find a way to make the PSV environment beneficial to all – workers, owners, citizens and country.

• Corey Worrell, a former Commonwealth Youth Ambassador, is director of C2J Foundation Inc., a project-based NGO focusing on social development. Email: coreyworrell@gmail.com

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