Fri | Oct 15, 2021

Letter of the Day | Highway or avenue?

Published:Tuesday | October 12, 2021 | 12:07 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

Why do we put so much money and effort into making roads better for cars and practically no money into making roads and sidewalks better for people?

It has become clear that we need a radically different approach to urban roads and transport. A transport system that relies on motor cars to move people through the city (good though it may be for revenue collection on import duty and fuel tax) is not sustainable.

The city is heating up due to trees making way for asphalt and concrete. Jamaicans need to consider how we can contribute to the fight against global warming and climate change, and providing shade and good public transport in our cities would be a good start.

I recently took a walk from one end of Lady Musgrave Road in St Andrew to the other. In some places the sidewalk is blocked by branches and rubbish, and sometimes the sidewalk disappears altogether and pedestrians are forced into the carriageway to cross over a gully or drain.

For a few sections, there are street trees, the last remaining survivors of the trees planted in middle of the last century. For these short shady sections, it was a pleasant walk. Vendors and other pedestrians were friendly and curious to know what a white woman like me was doing walking rather than driving.

WIDEN TO WHAT END?

Lady Musgrave Road, like many in cities throughout the world, is a street lined with a mix of commercial and residential uses and could, therefore, potentially be much more than a highway across town.

If we were to develop the sidewalks, with an even surface, plant trees to cool and remove the obstacles and heaps of trash, Lady Musgrave Road could be a beautiful pedestrian and vehicular boulevard, leading from Old Hope Road to the gates of King’s House, with views of Vale Royal on the way.

The Government has announced that Lady Musgrave Road is to be widened to two lanes in each direction. This will leave even fewer sidewalks and no trees. We have to ask, to what end?

Traffic on Lady Musgrave is currently moderate except at peak hours. At peak hours, as a Jamaican traffic engineer currently practicing in DC has explained, the capacity of Lady Musgrave to move traffic is dependent on how many vehicles can leave the road at its ends. We can stack vehicles two abreast along Lady Musgrave, but it will not help if they cannot then get through the lights at Hope Road.

Also, as we have seen elsewhere, a four-lane highway becomes a racetrack off peak, which leads our engineering team wanting to put up concrete barriers to avoid head-on collisions! This is a vicious cycle and not a viable solution.

LACK OF JOINED-UP PLANNING

Jamaica and Kingston are suffering from a lack of joined-up planning. We are seeing a race to high-density development without any plans in place for the parks or walkable streets that would allow residents to access services.

Why does the National Works Agency plan for vehicles without planning for pedestrians? What is our transport policy? Why are we not planning for a public urban transport system that even an MP or CEO would be comfortable using?

I speak of the street where I live but the principle and situation are the same throughout the city.

Kingston has a choice between being a green city or a concrete jungle. At present, the Government and developers, with the acquiescence of the planners, seem to have chosen concrete.

ANN HODGES

Lady Musgrave Road