My blog has moved, see the new site at http://blog.badlightgoodlight.com
I hesitate to suggest that Guyanese road users are a unique bunch, better to say in my experience they are a unique bunch. Just a few weeks ago there was a grizzly accident. A minibus conductor had the misfortune to have his head and shoulders out of the bus window when the bus was in an accident and rolled over.
Hard road, hard bus, not so hard head (except metaphorically), I think you can see where this is going.
This sticking the head out the window thing, is a regular practice of minibus conductors. Prior to the accident they all did it. No doubt, because I used the word “prior” you now think I am going to say they have stopped doing that. Nope, they have not. This is where the uniqueness comes in; they really do have hard heads. It does not appear that they can be taught a lesson.
They are not the only ones. I’ve had some degree of experience with road users in other countries and none of them share the apparent sense of entitlement and indiscipline with which Guyanese road users are afflicted. People will walk across the road in the path of oncoming trucks carrying huge containers without a look right or left. I see this everyday. Thank goodness for strong brakes.
I wonder if any of these people have ever seen a truck in the emergency section of the hospital? Or in a mortuary?
I hate to sound like an old fart, I am only 29 after all (maybe if I say it often enough the universe will make it so), but in my day road use was nothing like it is now.
Undoubtedly, a significant part of the cause is that there are more and more uneducated road users; both vehicular and pedestrian. But that cannot be all there is to it. Education first; I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t being told by a parent, or a relative or a teacher that I must look both ways before crossing a road. Apparently, the implication that you must not cross if there is a vehicle coming is no longer part of the lesson. But while educational standards have dropped, this is a matter of commonsense and no matter how uncommon it may be, I cannot believe that so little exists.
I saw an accident a few days ago; a lady was crossing the street between cars caught in a queue. She walked straight out into the path of a car that was attempting to “jump” the queue. She didn’t look, plus she was crossing in clearly dangerous circumstances and the driver was in such a hurry that he couldn’t stop. She was hit by his wing mirror and didn’t appear to be injured, but it could have been significantly worse had the timing of their meeting been just slightly different.
It may be cultural or a sign of hard times financially, but people genuinely don’t seem to care what may happen to them if they don’t use the roads properly.
I think the biggest problem is a sense of entitlement; that they are entitled to use the road and act in any manner that they please, and goodness help those who get in the way of their entitlement. This sense of entitlement either exacerbates the problem or causes the problem. I happen to think it is the cause of the problem.
Drivers don’t seem to understand that 2 tons of steel traveling even at relatively slow speeds will kill, and pedestrians don’t seem to grasp this basic concept of physics either. Speeding drivers invariably get the blame for collisions with pedestrians, but I have personally experienced pedestrians walking straight out into the road in front of me; and have seen it happen to other drivers.
I witnessed the death of a cyclist when he was decapitated after being struck by a truck. He (and his passenger) rode across first one lane then into the other lane of a busy highway from a small village street. He nearly caused an accident in the southbound lane which he crossed first (and in which I was traveling) and he crossed the northbound lane right into the path of a truck. I saw the truck swerve to try and avoid him and I also saw that the truck was traveling fairly slowly.
What could have prompted the cyclist to do something so obviously foolish and dangerous? And this wasn’t some youth who you might expect to act foolishly. This was a grown man with children. Fatalism? He didn’t really care what would happen? Or a sense of entitlement? Did he think he was entitled to use the roads in any manner he chose?
Drivers rarely extend courtesies anymore, minibuses certainly don’t save for exceptions that merely prove the rule.
I was being driven by my wife somewhere the other day (a fairly rare occurrence) when another driver jumped a stop sigh and crossed right in front of her. No accident, thank goodness. But when she had the temerity to toot her horn at him, he stuck his head out his window and launched a tirade at her. We couldn’t hear what he said, but he was clearly very angry. Why?
A lady traveling in the opposite direction to me, crossed into my lane to pass an obstruction in her lane. I had to reverse to allow her to pass. In passing, she told me I should have seen her flashing her lights and stopped earlier so she wouldn’t have had to wait on me to reverse. I didn’t know how to respond to that, I was so bemused.
I strongly suspect that many of the fatal accidents in Guyana can probably be laid at door of that sense of entitlement that Guyanese road users have. I once thought that this might be curable, but a quick look at our society as a whole reflects that this sense of entitlement and disbelief at the temerity of other to question this entitlement begins at the very top and works its way all the way down to the bottom.
My blog has moved, see the new site at http://blog.badlightgoodlight.com
I drove past the Conversation Tree a few days ago and noticed someone putting a fence around a newly planted tree.
The Conversation Tree (for all the [one] people who visit my blog who aren’t Guyanese) is a historic landmark on the east coast of Demerara. The tree is to be found at the intersection of the Rupert Craig Highway and the road to which it has given its name (Conversation Tree Road). It was reputedly first planted by Napleton William King in 1876 to celebrate the birth of his son Napleton Walter.
My father named his blog after it.
I took a photo of it years ago, just before the photographed tree finally gave up the ghost. It is a nice picture, counted as one of my best for a long time and it is one of the images that made me think I could be a good photographer (ironically, I did a fair bit of editing on it to produce the final image, but at least I had the raw materials).
I owe that picture (or at least the subject) to Boyo Ramsaroop, who passed away recently. The tree in this picture was probably planted many years ago by Mr. Ramsaroop, and is the tree I’ve known my entire life as “the” Conversation Tree. My recollection is that Mr. Ramsaroop told me he had planted this tree to replace the previous tree (possibly the first) that my father knew during his youth. My recollection may be mistaken, but in any event I do know that he planted the tree that replaced the one in this picture, which was destroyed in an accident shortly before his death.
Boyo Ramsaroop was a well known political and social activist. He was a noted horticulturalist. Among his many other accomplishments he bore the betterment of his country firmly in his heart. Of all the things I could have chosen, I chose his planting of a flambouyant tree on which to comment.
It may well have been the least of his accomplishments, but it is significant to me because he did it from the purest of motives. Not for profit, not for fame (I doubt very many people even knew he had anything to do with it) but perhaps simply because it brought a bit of beauty to an otherwise dreary corner.
I believe that there are still people who do these things in Guyana, though in the past there were probably more. People who uplift their surroundings simply out of a desire to live in a nicer environment, or out of a bit of civic pride. It is not something that is seen much anymore.
A new tree has been planted and fenced. Done, no doubt in his father’s honour and memory, but very likely also in the same spirit as his father, by Gerhard Ramsaroop. These days in Guyana, if you do anything ostensibly in service of your country or community it may well necessitate press conferences, billboards and newspaper reports.
Either I missed the press conference, or Boyo taught his son better. I am inclined to the latter view.
When all the people like Boyo Ramsaroop leave or die, this country won’t be worth living in anymore. By then there will probably be too many self-congratulatory billboards “beautifying” the country for any of us to fit anyway.