Sat | Jul 21, 2018

Fix traffic snarls, kite festival promoters

Published:Saturday | April 2, 2016 | 12:00 AM


We spent a lovely day in Duncans, Trelawny, on Easter Monday. The weather was perfect and our families took full advantage as we picnicked on Trelawny's finest beach. We reluctantly packed up and started the trek back to Kingston.

Traffic came to a crawl just outside of Runaway Bay. There was a long, barely moving line of traffic and no obvious impediment in sight. It took us a whole two hours to get from Runaway Bay to Priory, normally a 15-20 minute journey.

Undisciplined motorists created a lane on the soft shoulder and yet another in the middle of the highway, effectively sandwiching us motorists who opted to obey the road code and do the right thing. The reason for the traffic snarl along the main northern corridor linking western Jamaica to eastern Jamaica was the obviously very popular Drax Hall Kite Festival. The crawl slowed to a standstill as we approached the festival's venue.


Cars were parked on either side of the highway for at least half a mile in either direction of the entrance. Vendors plied their wares right on the soft shoulder. Vehicles entered and exited the venue. By the time we approached the festival venue, police were there appearing to direct traffic but having zero impact on the pile-up.

We were going so slowly that I was able to quiz one of the traffic cops as I drove by. Yes, he heard that traffic was backed up for miles. No, he didn't understand why.

It is unacceptable for the free flow of traffic along the main corridor on the north coast to be impeded because of any one event taking place nearby. Yes, the traffic flows heading west to east were higher than normal, as Kingstonians headed back to reality after spending the Easter weekend in paradise. And yes, local festivals are to be encouraged for all the right reasons: agents for community cohesiveness, as outlets for local talent and creativity, providers of recreation and enjoyment for local families and tourists alike, and opportunities to make money.

There is no reason why traffic had to come to a virtual standstill in the way it did on Easter Monday. The police should have worked more effectively with the festival planners to get a handle on expected attendance and formed a traffic management plant around these projections. Law enforcers should have had a monitoring mechanism in place to alert them to traffic backing up and the undisciplined motorists making a bad situation worse.

I expect that the police are equipped to modify existing plans instead of forcing us to suffer a two-hour delay. Perhaps we would have been inconvenienced for, say, half an hour, had the police done what they were supposed to do.

I hope next year's staging of the Drax Hall Kite Festival will see organisers working more effectively with the police to ensure that festival patrons can enjoy the event and motorists can move freely, safely and in order.