Drivers, you’re too close!

| 26/09/2019 | 65 Comments

Wendy Ledger writes: Taking part in Car Free Day on Friday was by no means my first experience reporting the news under pedal power, but it was the first time I’d ridden my bike in and around George Town during office hours since last year. And in that short space of time, there is no doubt things are much more hair raising for bike riders than they once were.

In addition to climate change making the whole thing a lot hotter, as the soft breezes were few and far between on Friday, the main issue was how close vehicles get to cyclists. It is no surprise that more than 50 cyclists were knocked off their bikes over the last year.

When I started my journey on Friday, the most treacherous road I hit was without a doubt Crewe Road. It’s already a busy narrow thoroughfare, but while cyclists only take up a slither of the road, vehicles gave little consideration to the fact that they still need that slither. Vehicle after vehicle came within a hair’s breadth of my handle bars, which I can say was extremely unnerving.

By contrast, however, many drivers were very considerate when it came to giving way and even on occasions when it wasn’t my right of way, people urged me to go regardless and waited patiently as I passed by.

Once in the heart of town, as I headed towards the courthouse, I took to the sidewalks and a pavements when no pedestrians were around and it was safe to do so. This was largely because the roads are narrow and cars just didn’t give a wide enough berth. But by taking to the pavement, I learned a little about connectivity and the definite lack thereof.

It gave me a new appreciation for the concerns raised by George Town Manager Colin Lumsden and his colleague Charles Brown, who highlighted that problem in their presentations about the proposed revamp of the capital. Joining side walks, paths and rights of way and ensuring that they are wheelchair, stroller and bike friendly is important if Cayman is ever to achieve the goal of complete streets that we can all use safely.

There were some interesting highlights to my day. Riding around town during the work day under the more sedentary pace of a bicycle offers a new perspective of George Town and life in the capital, not to mention interesting encounters with people and animals, including a bull, which, fortunately for everyone concerned, turned out to be a cow.

I also encountered several civil servants on their bicycles, and I was pleased to see when I rode through the Government Administration Building car park, at the suggestion of one of our CNS commentators, that it was very nearly empty. Public sector workers appeared to enter into the spirit of the day, which the government is hoping will spread to the private sector next year.

Given the challenges we are facing regarding climate change, traffic congestion, the cost of fuel and the creeping levels of pollution, more of us need to get out of our cars on a much more regular basis — one day a year won’t make much of an impact. That means making the roads much more user-friendly for pedestrians and cyclists, but most importantly to develop a well organised, reliable and subsidised public transport system.

For years this has been a major issue and I have been reporting in Cayman for long enough to remember how one minister laughed heartily during a press conference (back when government used to have them… Oh what fun they were!) at the idea that Caymanians would ever use public transport.

While it has taken government a long time to realise that public transport is the key element to solving the congestion and road safety issues, it’s still taking a long time to get anywhere near a comprehensive integrated transport plan. The government’s focus continues to be on building roads, even though the minister responsible keeps pointing out that we cannot keep building them and that they will not in the end solve the congestion problem.

During his last strategic policy statement in April, Premier Alden McLaughlin said that a “radical new approach to public transport” was necessary because increasing road capacity would just mean more traffic. Government “must deliver new solutions”, he said, as he announced plans this year to commission a specialist mass transportation study. But there is no indication that work has started on that project.

Meanwhile, last week Minister Joey Hew held an emergency meeting about traffic issues because things have become so bad for commuters from the Eastern Districts. Again, he highlighted the need to improve the public transport service.

But, sadly, the “radical new approach” or “new solutions” remain elusive, and it may just be that the sheer frustration of sitting in traffic for increasing hours every morning and evening may itself be the thing that drives people out of their cars and onto the bus or bike.

In the meantime, drivers, please give cyclists room. After all, they’re humans too.

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Comments (65)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Be a lot less obesity here if we had cycle lanes and footpaths.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Grand Cayman is NOT cycling friendly. It’s not worth dying for. I once biked everywhere and had many bad experience, countless near misses with idiot drivers. I was hit and knocked off once and I was done. Until our clueless government realizes that wide bike lanes are worth doing, I say do not cycle here.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I wonder how many foreigners have been hit or knocked off their bikes? It scares me anytime I drive and watch a wider vehicle like a fuel truck, or home gas driving down South Church St. and a bicycle or people walking, jogging. How can a person with common sense think there is enough space for a bicycle or a pedestrian? If one is exercising can one not use Truman Bodden track and field? I thought they built that for public use in the evenings? A lane on South Church St. is approximately 8 feet wide? A larger vehicle more than 6 feet wide driving on the white line? Why is a bicycle taking a chance riding anywhere on the black top? Maybe just maybe its a hint to the bicycle riders that they are doing something not safe? 55 reported rider accidents tells me don’t ride there or at that time ( too busy). I walked that road when I was in my 30’s in the 70’s and when I heard a vehicle coming I stepped on to the grass. I never got hit day or night walking or riding anywhere in Cayman cause I didn’t play chicken with a vehicle coming from behind me. You never know if they were drunk or couldn’t see so why take the chance. We constantly think, well we will make another law. Has that worked??

    • Anonymous says:

      I think you are forgetting that a bicycle is a valid form of transport and for many the only affordable means. If you approach the bicycle to overtake, it is the same rules as any other vehicle, you have to wait until it is clear to do so. The frustration of being stuck behind a bicycle is no excuse to make dangerous manoevres.

      • Anonymous says:

        I absolutely agree 100% 1.17 pm- and I think it is also incumbent on ALL cyclists as a ‘valid form of transport’ to ALL follow the rules of the road (e.g. riding with the traffic – as any other vehicle – as opposed to riding on the wrong side of the road). Kudos to those cyclists who ride responsibly though – I even saw one last week using proper ‘hand-signals’ – a first for me in years ! … Nevertheless, my observation as both a cyclist and a car driver is that for the most part, cyclists have a difficult time as they are expected to negotiate just one lane, where vehicular traffic is constantly encroaching on their space – often, no bicycle lanes etc…to give them a little leeway.
        That’s why I rarely use my bicycle these days.

    • Linda says:

      Civil service leading the way. I am so proud! Let’s do this again and I hope the private sector will join in. Together we are unstoppable.

  4. Anonymous says:

    cyclists should have priority over all cars….the sooner we learn that…
    single occupancy car drivers a scourge of the world.

    • Anonymous says:

      Since I know you’re joking, I won’t bother telling you that it’s that attitude that may be the very thing that causes YOU to get hit. A bike won’t hurt me or my car, trust me. The sooner YOU and your biking buddies learn THAT, then we will have made progress. Don’t ride where there’s no BIKE LANE, for Christ’s sake…take your earpods out how bout and listen for cars and when you hear one get in SINGLE FILE. You all ride side by side on roads where there is no bike lane and expect traffic to go around you and then get all offended and butt hurt when one of you gets knocked down…common sense is a hell of a thing, REALLY handy…unfortunately not everyone has it.

      • Janet Ebanks says:

        This is the irrisponcible attitude of so many cayman drivers. It’s sad to see how selfish and disrespectful people are these days. Out right cut throat. #CaymanKind

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’d cycle loads if I didn’t fear for my life.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree, but not only am I scared of the cars on the road, I’m also scared of cyclists coming at me on the wrong side of the road – even have them passing me ( traffic danger in itself, broaching into oncoming vehicle roadspace) or making me stop to accomodate them – nobody seems to care about this. What if Motorcyles started doing it ?

      • Anonymous says:

        Obviously ‘thumbs-downers’ are the ‘wrong-side-of-the-Road’ers’ who don’t think they’re doing anything wrong.

  6. thomas says:

    Biking in Cayman is sketchy. Being pushed out of bicycle lanes by impatient Motorcycle and scooter drivers is common practice Cars indiscriminately swerve in and out of the bike lanes at random. Public buses try and run you off the road when ever they make a random stop. cyclists and pedestrians are expendable in the eyes of the drivers in Cayman. You need to get that one car length ahead.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Just dont risk your life that’s all, put your bike down.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I work at the Government building and I took part in the car free day by jogging from home, as I live barely two miles away. In those not quite two miles, running against the traffic on Walkers road, I nearly got hit five (5!!!) times. Mostly people do not look right AND left when they pull out of a side street or driveway, so they don’t see pedestrians coming. A car also almost knocked me down as it was racing coming towards me to go into the slip road by Cayman academy. I’d love to be able to run to work more often but I have a family that relies on me so I can’t take that kind of risk.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m confident in my assessment that you were in fact jogging on the incorrect side of the road.

      • Anonymous says:

        You can be as confident as you like – still wrong. Pedestrians are meant to proceed facing the traffic. Bikes and other vehicles – with the traffic. But hey, the issue here not whether he is running on the right side of the road, its the traffic not allowing for the pedestrian. Or are you seriously suggesting the experience would have been different if he was moving with the traffic? And before you start with the BS about cars pulling out from side streets not expecting to see someone coming the other way, drivers are meant to check both ways before pulling out – not least because of pedestrians.

      • Anonymous says:

        Hi! I’m the original poster of this comment. Are you saying I should be running with the traffic at my back so I don’t see the cars about to run me over? I literally had to jump out of the way of the lady racing towards Cayman academy. If my back had been to the traffic, I’d probably have ended up in the hospital!

    • Anonymous says:

      You need to understand that running, jogging and cycling are not typically part of Caribbean culture. It’s not a thing for most of us. Apparently it is in your culture. So knowing that, you can’t expect that drivers here are going to react to you or give you the same road courtesy that they do where you are from. I don’t know why it surprises you that it’s different than where you’re from. And it’s not going to change. So. Be on the defensive if you walk or run or cycle and watch yourself. Simple.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Riding a bicycle in Cayman is very dangerous. I have been been pushed out of bike lanes by impatient motorcycle and scooters drivers this happens almost daily. have had a hit and run with a car pulling out of a driveway. The police seeming turn a blind eye to almost all drivers breaking the law. Quite a few drivers drift onto the shoulder during rush hour, because they are on their phones texting or playing games to pass the time. Not many drivers seem to understand the responsibility that comes with the privilege to operate a motor vehicle, which is only re-enforced by the police not enforcing any sort of road laws. I am still surprised that not more people are killed every year on the roads we are relying on blind luck as a policy.

    There are so many issues that seem to happen in the same places all the time. Jacques Scott intersection. Almost every light change people run the red light usually, north bound. Every rush hour motorcycles and scooters are illegally cutting down the middle line between lanes and driving in bicycle lanes or on the shoulder. almost everyone is on their phone. Drivers blocking intersections at traffic lights. This predictable behavior should take very little effort for the police to catch and stop. It would make the streets significantly safer for everyone.

    • JB says:

      Driving motor vehicles in the bicycle lanes is illegal it is suppose to be a protected space for bike riders.

      • Anonymous says:

        And riding your bicycle in the middle of the road aint too smart either.
        I use to drive through south sound early every morning on my way to work, but since the zombies have taken over i just avoid there all together now.

      • Anonymous says:

        Oh I thought those lanes were for parking. Ever been down Canal Point Rd in front of Fosters on a Saturday?

  10. anon says:

    I understand that in the spirit of traffic reduction and more exercise that Government will sponsor members of the public to travel to Monaco next year to participate in the Annual Bike Ride along with the Premier.

    • Anonymous says:

      LOL. Of course, its apparently a semi annual event now – the last one was April, and they are off again.

  11. Slacker says:

    Thank you Wendy for bringing this issue to the attention of the Public. A few weeks ago, after some rain, I was biking home when I got buzzed by a car, even though there was no oncoming traffic. To make matters worse, I saw the same driver, cross over to other lane, because there was a small puddle that he needed to avoid, to protect his precious vehicle from water.

    At the same time, I also want to send out a heartfelt thanks to those drivers who respect us bikers and keep us safe.

    • Anonymous says:

      Were you in a bike lane? If you were, carry on. If you weren’t, what do you expect? I am not saying you do not have the right to expect cars to at least give you some space, but most times if there’s no bike lane then it’s probably because there isn’t room for one, which should tell you that you shouldn’t be there in the first place.

      • Anonymous says:

        Roads are for cars and bikes, that’s not a debate, it’s the law. – They are also for mopeds, tractors and busses, it’s how they work. A bike lane is in place to protect cyclists from poor driving, but where there is no bike lane, cars should give ample space when passing cyclists. If there is not room to safely overtake, then you wait until there is, again, it’s the law. Stop being ignorant, learn the law and share the road.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The problem here is the large percentage of drivers here have no respect for other humans. They are OK with killing some one if it gets them another car ahead in line. A person on a bicycle is just a points game for them. Add in no functional law enforcement and you should realize its a free for all, No laws, and every man for themselves means you are on your own. Followed a bus yesterday in a 40 MPH zone. As usual everyone doing 50. He stops (no turn signal) immediately to let some one off in the middle of the road. I stop in time but the guy behind me just barely stops before hitting me. Right behind is another group of cars heading at us full speed. All of them some how got by us in the other lane without a head on collision and as I passed the taxi he flipped me off. Caymanian. Drive like half of the people on the road do not have the ability to see other cars or bikes on the road.

    • Anonymous says:

      How do you know the driver was Caymanian. Many are not!

      • Anonymous says:

        Given taxi driving is an occupation reserved for Caymanians think its a fair assumption.

        • Anonymous says:

          Ummm I guess you never heard of a Jamaican marrying a Caymanian and then becoming a taxi driver. Well consider yourself informed.

    • Anonymous says:

      But you not easy…we didn’t ask you to come here You obviously feel disdain for the local people, the bus drivers, our law enforcement…yeah they may be shitty but it’s one of those things where we can say that but you can’t. You people come here expecting our ways to change to accommodate you and get all indignant and huffy-puffy and offended when they don’t and sit around in pubs bemoaning your plight at having to put up with us…there’s planes out every day, buddy…

  13. Anonymous says:

    *Crewe Road

  14. Anonymous says:

    “It is no surprise that more than 50 cyclists were knocked off their bikes over the last year.” – I disagree. I’m surprised it’s so few. As a driver I wince when I see how close some drivers, especially Taxis, think is acceptable to get past cyclists.

    • Anonymous says:

      50 that were reported to the police! I would bet the actual numbers are at least 4 times that.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I dont understand why people cycle and run on narrow roads such as Crewe Road or South Church Street.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t understand why some car drivers need the whole road to themselves and think they can ignore the safety of other legal road users. Guess you are not puzzled by that. Don’t seem to recall the bit in the traffic law that says where a narrow road is involved, pedestrians and cyclists are prohibited, or the obligations on drivers to exercise due care and attention are suspended.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ah, the sweet smell of victim blaming. Always a great fall back for the people actually guilty. What next, you going to express a lack of understanding of why light poles jump out in front of innocent drivers?

    • Anonymous says:

      Because it is a PUBLIC space and not just reserved for drivers. It is like saying, I don’t understand why drivers use narrow roads.

    • Anonymous says:

      9:47 I don’t understand why do you believe roads are for cars only. Roads are for people. And cooperation is the main point of sharing roads by pedestrians, bikers and cars.

    • Anonymous says:

      ah people, the point is if these roads are inherently dangerous, go Linford pearson or walkers road

  16. Anonymous says:

    big question…est tibbetts expansion between lakeside and camana bay recently done by dart……..why no cycle lane?????
    i want an answer now!

  17. Anonymous says:

    When I pass a cyclist, I pass properly. I indicate, and move past the centre line of the road to give them enough room. I don’t try and close-pass with oncoming traffic. I love cyclists! Every cyclist represents fewer cars on the road, lower emissions and a healthier lifestyle!

    • Anonymous says:

      well done must be an expat who received proper driving instruction.
      you must always indicate when overtaking a cyclist.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Great article. I’m SO glad that more cycling lanes are being installed and they’re understanding that you can’t make roads just for cars.

    • Anonymous says:

      Where do you see new lanes? Existing shoulder space tapers into concrete or armco barriers at each roundabout, and none of it is cleaned.

    • Anonymous says:

      Piecemeal bike lanes to nowhere will only compound the issue.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I am not sure why other people brains work differently, buy when I see a cyclist, I automatically slow down and give him enough room to eliminate or reduce any chance of an accident (as road conditions allow).
    A friend of mine was dragged by a passing track, and the driver didn’t even notice it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you!

    • Anonymous says:

      Yep, me too. I used to ride before it became too dangerous. Well done to Wendy for actually doing this.
      I hope people that are appreciating the reporting at CNS are availing themselves of the tip box.
      For the record I have very little in common with the political, philosophical, and spiritual leaning of CNS, but I respect their efforts.
      Yes, I did tip them and they very graciously sent me a thank you card.which was a classy touch.

      Thanks for the tip!

      • Anonymous says:

        It is a good thing to sustain the free press. Some media outlets call themselves free, but in reality they are not.
        CNS may be a smidge left (perhaps more than a smidge) which is not what I would sprinkle on my steak, but at least it is free (not compromised).
        Come on all you fancy lawyers reading and commenting like there’s no tomorrow. Did you tip? Thumbs up for yes.

        • Anonymous says:

          When CNS registers as a not-for-profit, I’ll leave a tip. Until then, it’s on them to make their currently failing business model successful.

          And yet, whenever you eat at a restaurant, you leave a tip, propping up an otherwise failing business model. And if you apply for a work permit, government mandates that you prop up an otherwise failing business model, with no discernible benefit to either employer or job seekers. You’re OK with these things because you’re used to them. Or perhaps it has less to do with the concept as with your dislike of CNS.

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