Monday, January 22, 2018

Stopping the road carnage

 THREE weekends ago my best friend was tragically killed on the Audrey Jeffers Highway. As reported on the back page of the Sunday Express, Clinton Grant was an ex-national cyclist, a stalwart within the sport, a coach who was now giving back to his sport and guiding the next batch of T&T representatives.

Understandably, there has been anger within the cycling fraternity and moves are being made to address drivers’ attitudes towards cyclists, through the relevant avenues such as the Ministry of Transport. The Trinidad & Tobago Cycling Federation (TTCF) has also held one protest ride, with the prospect of more on the horizon.

As a tribute, one club, Team Saturday Religion, will also erect a memorial to Grant on the Audrey Jeffers Highway. My fellow cyclists may or may not agree but it is not enough and given the mentality of our drivers, which is facilitated by our lawless culture, it will not make much difference. 

While I wholeheartedly endorse the attempts at raising awareness and the tributes to my friend, nothing will change the weekly carnage on our roads until the source of the problem is meaningfully tackled. 

The TTCF must recognise that it is not a cycling problem; the matter forms part of the wider crisis that is T&T’s appalling road fatality problem. Ministers “urging” drivers to slow down, or to have respect for other users of the road such as pedestrians and cyclists, will not make an iota of a difference in any nation, far less T&T. 

Until we create the parameters, by using the technology available for decades, to force our drivers to obey the law, our driving will remain in its atrocious state. But there is no political will to create the infrastructure that will certainly halve the number of deaths on our roads and it raises the question, why? 

Lest this be construed as an emotional response given the long shadow of the tragic circumstances that prompted this column, please see “A Tragic Indicator” (Express, June 4, 2012), where similar questions were asked and several proposals made. 

At the time I wrote: “At the forefront of any initiative has to be the speed camera. It is proven technology; in nations with a comprehensive network of speed cameras, the road fatalities have tumbled year upon year. Quite simply people do not like to be stung in their pocket. If it takes hefty fines upon being caught on camera to preserve lives, so be it. Relatively speaking, the technology is inexpensive. In addition to the speed cameras, other forms of video surveillance should be installed at major junctions and traffic lights, with similarly heavy fines and a ‘three strikes and you are out’ infringement policy for those drivers who cannot abide by the road laws. The technology is there, use it!” 

Arrive Alive has been championing the use of speed cameras for a long time to no avail. They have also asked for the implementation of a points system to penalise drivers; again, the matter has not even made it through the doors of Parliament. 

Consider this: a driver that is flashed by a speed camera who is suddenly aware that he has just earned himself three points and a $10,000 fine, will certainly slow down, especially if he knows that the next occasion he breaks the speed limit he will get a $20,000 fine and a further three points, while a third occurrence will result in loss of licence, permanently. 

Are governments so afraid to force technology upon the Licensing Office that they cannot fathom implementing this type of crucial structure? Meanwhile, people speed and die, or kill others, every week. I challenge Mr Cadiz to explain to the nation why there is not a project to introduce speed cameras and a points system to T&T. Perhaps the better challenge to Mr Cadiz would be to implement this process and leave a lasting and meaningful legacy. 

The cycling fraternity is heavily wounded by this latest tragedy and will seek answers regarding improvements to guarantee both safety and recognition that cyclists are entitled to use the roads as well. 

Next time you see cyclists riding two abreast, remember it is their right under the law. The next time you decide to speed past a you really need a law to tell you what damage a car can do to a human being? Most cyclists obey the law; you should do the same as a driver. 

Last year I suggested to the TTCF that they should use the current cycling star Njisane Phillip, to front a serious campaign highlighting the safety of cyclists and related laws. The proposal ticks all the boxes. 

A sponsor from within private enterprise gets the benefit of positive brand association from being involved with a worthwhile cause. The campaign will make a difference to at least one driver and that amounts to a big difference out on the roads. Most importantly, cyclists and pedestrians will be safer as a result. 

If one wanted to be clinical about the benefits, it would also be a tax write-off. Hopefully, such a procedure will be undertaken because realistically, enforcement of laws and addition of cycle lanes will take some time and the first step must be to raise awareness in a meaningful manner that will resonate with the driving population. 

(This column is dedicated to the memory of my dear friend Clinton Grant. Ride In Peace. )


  • Sheldon Waithe has a degree 

in business and writes on 

sport and politics for T&T and 

UK publications