#TurksandCaicos, October 24, 2017 – Providenciales – In the Turks and Caicos, our highways are unique because they run through our neighborhoods. The two main highways are called Leeward Highway – which runs east to west and the other is Millennium Highway and it runs, north to south. Everything from schools to grocery stores, banks and churches, apartment complexes and houses, gas stations, utility companies, mechanic shops and day care centers, retail outlets, court houses, medical facilities, law firms to social services, pharmacies and restaurants line these major thoroughfares.
Yet, upon inspection, Magnetic Media is awed by the fact that there is not one single pedestrian crossing on any of these roadways. No not one in nearly 20 miles of road stretching almost the entire length of the developed part of the most developed island in the country.
While the argument can be had that the absence of these vital cross walks is due to the fact that the strips are ‘highways’ – the more compelling argument and frustrating reality is that there is nothing typical or traditional about our Leeward and Millennium Highways.
Our highways are home to homes and business directly. There are no exits to enter to access the services or one’s home. No, you pull off the highway right into a front yard or to turn into a neighborhood or you can park at the entrance of a school or daycare or drive right up to a business- directly off the highway. But to cross the whoppingly wide four-lane Leeward Highway or the frantically busy, two lane stretch which is Millennium Highway there is no civilized way to do so.
Every day, the missing crossings put thousands of people who make up both the walking and motoring public at deadly risk.
On Friday, October 21stwe got a case in point of the worst kind. The horrible death of a woman who was trying to cross the Leeward Highway, where there is no median, are dim lights and often the area is a vehicle speed zone. She was hit by a car, then rolled over by a jeep and died on the spot. The drivers both stopped, but the woman is dead and gone.
I wonder how many times this will have to happen before some remedy is introduced to make it safer for those living in these islands who have to walk to get to and fro.
It is a sickening trend where the planning of this emerging economy has obviously and irresponsibly disregarded the pedestrian public. Most people who live here and who visit here are not owners of a vehicle. There is no public transportation. There are hardly any sidewalks where the residential or indigenous populations reside, accommodations for wheelchairs is as rare to find in Provo as a mango tree and there are limited sidewalks across the island of Providenciales with virtually none for the home population.
In high tourist zones like Grace Bay and Turtle Cove, there are six pedestrian crossings. Four of them in Grace Bay, two crosswalks in Turtle Cove. Both areas are relatively small compared to the vast spaces where thousands of walking employees, senior citizens and students live.
Grace Bay has four cross walks, Turtle Cove has two and the Airport, which we tossed in just because – has four pedestrian crossings.
Down Town, there are two and one on the airport road. Glass Shack area has two for sure, there is one in the heart of The Bight near Ianthe Pratt Primary School; three in the Clement Howell and Oseta Jolly schools zone and one in Five Cays, at the Enid Capron primary school there. We tried not to miss any. But if we have, it is inadvertent.
The point of this report is not to tally-up the pedestrian crossings, because without question there are not sufficient of them anyway. The purpose here and our hope is to encourage us as residents and citizens of the Turks and Caicos Islands to demand a remedy to the problem. Maybe highways cannot have pedestrian crossings. But we do not have real highways. What we do have is a real and deadly problem which requires rectification.
We cannot have thousands of residents residing in the largest populated community of Blue Hills/Wheeland without a safe and legal way to cross the street just because someone decided they wanted to name it Millennium HIGHWAY.
We cannot have thousands of residents put at life threatening risk when they decide they want to cross from a visit at the Cheshire Hall medical Center to their home in Plantation or go into the NIB for their benefit cheque.
We cannot continue to live in a society which disregards the fact that most people visiting ScotiaBank’s ATM live in the hugely populated Cheshire Hall district and will need to cross the HIGHWAY to get back home.
We cannot rest on our laurels as leaders in the various spheres and distance ourselves from the fact that a person with their grocery bags after shopping at Graceway IGA will need to cross the thoroughfare to get home to The Bight.
We do not have a hovering public, I mean people aren’t floating around. Everyone does not have a vehicle. Plus we say we want to encourage walking and activity to reduce the prevalence of non communicable diseases and there is a boom in exercising on our streets. But it is not safe.
I mean, if we are serious about creating a civilized, caring, healthy and safe society… then let us get serious and make the changes which will lead to a better quality of life for all residents of the Turks and Caicos – drivers and walkers, locals and tourists – because all lives matter.