Letting the kinder, gentler side shine through in Jamaica

Almost daily, we are assaulted by stories and images of carnage on this island: from road crashes and their injuries and deaths, to killings and batterings that often defy reason in their savagery, to verbal threats between politicians. Yet, many of us know that those acts are committed by only a few, but they dominate our consciousness. The many cries for change are often met by little if any clear actions in the directions away from savagery. Yet, the possible steps are not hard, the demonstration effects could be large.

Take, for example, calmer attitudes on the roads. What have we tried? Mainly, I see, attempts to warn and punish by speed traps that cause motorists to calm their rush, at least near the traps. Some get caught and the JCF reported recently the 10s of thousands of tickets issued in operation ‘zero tolerance’. Bravo! But, we know that once past the traps, those who want to speed go ahead with that with impunity. Plans to use surveillance cameras are afoot and that may be one of those things that change the risk:reward of speeding. But, other ways exist that also improve conditions for most.

Many cities curb motor traffic at weekends. Rio closes part of its main roads along Copacabana Beach on Sundays. Result? You get bikers, walkers, joggers, vendors plying health juices, people sitting in a quieter space, enjoying the lack of competition with cars. A few weeks ago, the French Ambassador to Jamaica posted pictures on Facebook of a car-free Champs Elysees in Paris on a Sunday. Yesterday, driving away from Ottawa, I saw something similar. 

Ottawa, where parts of the highways are clised on Sundays
What prevents us from trying that in Kingston or other towns? Will? Money? Ideas? As a thought, couldn’t part of New Kingston get that treatment, say between Trafalgar Road-Knutsford Boulevard through to Emancipation Park. Traffic is already much lighter on Sundays, so limiting access to shared lanes shouldn’t cause much inconvenience. But, what a difference it could make for people to know they could stroll freely. Encourage artists to come and display their works, that could include acoustic musicians. We know vendors want to flock to crowds and we shouldn’t bar them, but with certain limitations. Many ways of doing such things have been tried; we don’t need to redesign the wheel, but we could give it a Jamaican feel. Thinking caps on!

Though logistically different, it could also be tried on a stretch of the highway leading to Montego Bay. Access to hotels and their amenities creates some challenges, but none that seem in surmountable. Thinking caps on, again! 

Let’s try it along the Kingston waterfront, as done for the Digicel 5k. What a joy it could be to stroll there, again!

These are just a few thoughts about trying things that shift our mindset. In much the same vein, the re-introduction of outdoor cinema in Kingston changes social entertainment options away from current offerings. It may not succeed, but it’s an attempt. 

We won’t become different overnight. But, we’ve let the dark side dominate too long. Let’s try things that let in our lighted side!

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)

2 thoughts on “Letting the kinder, gentler side shine through in Jamaica”

  1. Just here for a weekend and saw a lot in city and over in Quebec. Just thinking that the constant talk and little action is just wearing everyone down. It does not take much to make many small but significant changes.

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