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Nov 27, 1998

G. Michael Reid on too many vehicles

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For many drivers in Belize City the last few months have been something of a shock, as due to the closing of the Swing Bridge they have been forced to endure, for the first time, that phenomenon known as the “traffic jam”. In tonight’s Last Word News Five commentator G. Michael Reid explains why, even after the bridge is reopened, the relief may be short lived.

“One might believe that could H.D. Anderson stand at the foot of the Belcan Bridge on any given Friday evening these days, he might conclude that he had created a monster. Anderson was the man who, in 1903, brought the first ever automobile to the country of Belize. Today, the Traffic Department records a total of 7,453 registered vehicles in the city alone and with seemingly all of these wanting to go somewhere simultaneously at least twice every weekday, the term rush hour is defined. One must remember of course, that even back in the days when “ole” man Anderson’s jalopy was the only motorized 4-wheeler in town, Belize City had already begun taking shape and many of our streets were seemingly designed, with not even that one motor vehicle in mind. Today, with thousands of vehicles including trucks, buses and taxicabs vying for space on our relatively narrow streets, there has been created a problem that grows worse on a daily basis.

Compounding this problem of course, is the fact that our Swing Bridge, the main artery between the north and south sides of town has been out of commission for several months now and is not expected back in service until well into 1999. Even when renovations on this bridge are complete, however, the problem of traffic will not be solved and will in fact, in some areas, even get worse. It will mean increased traffic for North Front Street, which of course runs directly in front of Holy Redeemer, one of our biggest primary schools and this brings us to an integral part of this problem and its most imperative need for solution.

Many Belizean parents have now joined the club started by old man Anderson and are today, themselves proud owners of one and sometimes two of these magnificent driving machines. In these, they drop off and pick up their children and usually even when they can’t personally make it, they send a taxi. What this does of course, is to cause a daily gridlock in front of our schools which poses a serious danger to our many other children who still have to foot it to and fro.

This is not the problem at Belize Elementary School, where ownership of a high-priced automobile is almost a prerequisite to enrollment, but if you have ever tried to pass that area near let in or let out time, then you know what havoc is created. The problem at Belize Elementary should be easy to solve, however, since there is more than enough room on the school grounds and also on the side street to make pick up and drop off safe and hassle free.

With Holy Redeemer now, the solution might not be so easily found. One suggestion might be to cover that God awful canal that cuts thru the middle of the school. And like was done with Douglas Jones, put a street on top of it which would run from New Road to North Front Street. This could then be used exclusively for dropping off and picking up children, resulting in not only increased safety for the children, but also relief to the congestion on North Front Street.

Now of course, it is too much to expect that the number of vehicles on our streets will ever decline, what with no less than a dozen guys under the steps of the Civic whose sole employment, is to bring vehicles in as fast as they can. With also an increasing number of rental agencies, automobile dealerships and more taxi stands than we can stand, and with no space available to widen our streets, the predicament smacks of futility. Yet, for the sake of our children, our elderly and the very sanity of our community, we must seek compatibility with these machines.

We have long since recognized and filled the need for traffic laws and there is a traffic department which has put up traffic lights and stop signs and now even post wardens at areas where the traffic is most dense. But the bulk of the responsibility for safe and easy flow of traffic lies squarely on the shoulders of those who drive. Drivers must be more considerate, courteous and cognizant of the rules of the road. We might do well to copy a page from the traffic book of New York, where every applicant for a drivers license has to sit through a three hour class for traffic education before being allowed to get behind the wheel. The problem is not so much the number of vehicles as it is the number of drivers who don’t know or just don’t care. Let us all do our share to make Belize a safer place to live.

With the Last Word, G. Michael Reid.”

The opinions expressed on the Last Word are those of G. Michael Reid and not necessarily those of Channel Five. Comments are welcome.

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