As the Cayman Islands seeks solutions to growing traffic problems, Sustainable Cayman urges the government to prioritize quality of life and environmental protection.
Melanie Carmichael, an executive at the nonprofit advocacy group, argues for walking and biking trails and investments in public transport as alternatives to building bigger highways.
Do we need to rethink transport more than just build roads?
Absoutely. The long-term road plan published in 2005 without proper needs assessment should be updated to reflect current global trends. We collect traffic data, but what are really the most viable potential solutions to alleviate congestion problems that are deliverable, affordable, and offer good value for money?
Perhaps a simple data collection exercise would be to calculate how many cars and people live in each district and what their daily travel needs are. We suspect the congestion is due to the number of cars on the road, but it could also be attributed to bottlenecks such as the Hurley Roundabout.
I suspect we can do more to enforce or mitigate traffic violations and traffic accidents.
Fuel costs are about to skyrocket, which will affect the cost of goods and services, even asphalt is a petroleum-based product, so alternative solutions will have to be found for more cost-effective transportation. We all need to be more carbon conscious in everything we do, both personally and publicly.
What other infrastructure should we develop to make Cayman more friendly for cyclists and pedestrians?
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals have clearly identified that by 2030 countries should try to ensure safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all.
There has been a big call to make the densely populated neighborhoods of George Town more pedestrian and cyclist friendly.
With the growing popularity of electric bikes and scooters, these are more affordable options and would immediately help reduce congestion. These modes of transport also provide additional health and well-being benefits rather than contributing to global warming, pollution and obesity.
What do you think it will take to get people out of their cars in Cayman?
We need to drastically reduce our material and energy consumption and embrace a greener circular economy.
Incentives such as routes suitable for pedestrians and cyclists – as well as improvements to the existing road network to provide safe, affordable and efficient bus service – would help, along with smaller local transport networks. Companies can meet their carbon offset promises by having their employees work from home for part of the week.
We could make renting and owning e-bikes affordable and maybe employers could be encouraged to provide a public transport allowance so workers don’t have to buy cars. App technology could also be used for carpooling, whether for back-to-school trips, special events, or commuting to work.
These are all simple measures that can be put in place relatively easily.
What concerns do you have regarding the extension of the East-West Artery and its potential impact on wetlands?
The relationship between quality of life and how our environment protects and nurtures us is central to environmental stewardship. The 2021 environmental survey identified that 99% of respondents felt the protection of our central mangrove wetlands was important, highlighting the need to strengthen the protection of these areas in national and neighborhood plans.
Not only are we ignoring our environmental charter, but without environmental consultants being invited to the relevant committees and ignoring policy advice and global directives such as the adoption of a climate change policy or a national biodiversity action plan, the government is failing in its most basic obligations.
The cruise port proposal was a national project that likely hurt progressives in their bid to return to power, due to public concern over the cost of the project, environmental damage, non- compliance with the law and the question of who benefits from it – so a pier on land is no different.
Do the people of the Cayman Islands want the East-West Connector to become the largest and most expensive infrastructure project undertaken by the PACT government and is there a need to open this area up for development? This is an issue that has not been weighed against our development plan which, in itself, has not been updated since 1997. Without a modernized plan, the only recourse available is for the public to raise concerns.