Traffic lights need buttons for pedestrians

| 01/02/2019
Ask Auntie, CNS Local Life, Caymanian status

Why is it that the pedestrian crossings in central George Town have not been outfitted with the button-operated lights as has been done for other relatively new crossings? These GT crossings are the most used and these lights would certainly benefit pedestrians and drivers (providing they have a delay between activations) if/when installed. Then the RCIPS officers manning the light-equipped crossings at Fort Street could be more meaningfully deployed.

Auntie’s answer: I can certainly understand your query, considering the increase in visitors, and thus pedestrians, that always occurs this time of year. Travelling through town when cruise ships are in highlights the issue with people attempting to cross the street while looking the wrong way because they are unfamiliar with cars driving on the left.

In a previous column, I touched on a related subject that dealt with obeying the directions of police officers regardless of what the traffic light indicates (see Following police instructions on the road). However, in this instance the reader is talking about freeing up the police by installing pedestrian-operated buttons to control crossings.

I took the suggestion first to the National Roads Authority (NRA); traffic signals are included in its mandate to administer, manage and control Cayman’s roads.

An NRA official, while acknowledging that these buttons could be installed, pointed out that there was “no guarantee that this will make it safer” for visitors, given the high volume of pedestrians, coupled with their unfamiliarity both with the area and cars driving on the left side of the road.

The official also stressed the need to have police officers in town to help. “It is actually very important for the RCIPS to have a visual presence at the George Town port (especially on cruise ship days) to provide assistance to literally thousands of first-time visitors to the island.” As I mentioned above, I am sure many people have come upon tourists looking the wrong way or perhaps even starting to cross the road without noticing the oncoming cars.

I also checked with the RCIPS, and a spokesperson explained that when cruise ships are in town they deploy officers to the waterfront to help deal with all the passengers milling about.

The police “assist with the crosswalks to ensure that the traffic flows easier; their duty is to ensure that the daily waterfront activities go on without incident” as well as deal in a timely manner with any issues that may come up.

In addition, the RCIPS noted that pedestrian-controlled traffic lights are installed based on such factors as lighting and the time of day the crosswalk is most used, and these decisions fall to the NRA.

And, of course, there is absolutely no guarantee that every person wanting to cross the street would even wait for the light to change. I would hate to hear that a visitor, or any pedestrian for that matter, was hurt crossing the street when a police officer could have prevented it from happening.

We should also cut a great deal of slack for our visitors since they will understandingly be in vacation mode (as we all are when on holiday) with their brains on standby and not on full alert.

Either way, based on the explanations from these two departments, it does not seem likely at this point that pedestrians will find themselves able to control a traffic light at the touch of a button, that is if they are in town by the waterfront.

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Comments (6)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    So the NRA/RCIPS answer is to utilize 6 officers to “assist” adults to use the crossing in the harbor area? What about the other 6 crossings in central GT? More officers? Or is the answer to use 2 officers on 1 crossing and to hell with the others?
    If people were not taught by their parents to look BOTH ways when crossing ANY road anywhere, we cannot help them. The lighted crossings are much more obvious (day or night) to a pedestrian so they are much more likely to use it.
    What a waste of tax payers money.

  2. iindie says:

    I don’t think the buttons will solve the matter by the waterfront area , they do operate along the 7MB corridor around the Foster’s area but as stated , most of the pedestrians coming across from the cruise line landings are in complete vacation mode when coming off the ships and coming onto land , especially since the cruise ships offer drinks very , very , generously , overuse sugar etc. By the time they hit land their frozen margarita is definitely sloshing about (not only is their digestive tracts).

  3. Anonymous says:

    You know those buttons don’t actually do anything right?

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, they are known as placebo buttons.

    • Anonymous says:

      I presume that you have not walked around and actually used one then. I have. The existing buttons at the Fort St./Harbour Drive intersection do work. If they are not pressed the pedestrian signals do not operate and you can stand there forever or just run for it.
      Those elsewhere do operate very well. Although some pedestrians seem to think that it is beneath them to actually press the button.