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Carnival exercises

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Well, the rush is on. People may (or may not) have money, the PM may or may not be flying around the Caribbean attending weddings or begging for business for we, Fire Services fete may or may not have been cancelled, but the pitchwalk around the Queens Park Savannah and the road up Chancellor are full of people at 5 am and 5 pm. 

As of January 2, parking is scarce at those times in front of the Magnificent Seven and from the bottom of Chancellor, up the hill to the Horticultural Society office.

At the start of the season, there’s a bit of a daily pattern, a variation in population density, if you wish. Mondays are slow. Recovering from the weekend. Tuesday picks up. Wednesday and Thursday is mass confusion. Friday tailing off. Saturday is desert. Sunday a ghost town. As Carnival approaches, the pattern changes, the flow of people is more intense, posses of excited young, unfit persons appear out of nowhere and the pitchwalk and road are now packed every day of the week.

The locals, the usuals, the philosophers, the limers, the runners, the ones who saunter or jog or canter around the Savannah all year round or who walk briskly up Chancellor and stretch at the top or pause to look out over Port-of-Spain and the Gulf, take a breeze, are gradually pushed over, forced to walk on the grass or cut across the road to get away from the chattering hordes.

Now is the time when two large women walking side by side and gesticulating broadly can block the entire width of the pitchwalk and, not knowing walking or jogging etiquette, refuse to move aside. If they do, they always seem to make the wrong decision, straight into one’s path requiring last minute sideways manoeuvring at great peril to one’s groin.

Then you have the fit young women, coming out of the gym at last, intent on taking a little sun for that tanned look, flying past, breaking some imagined record so they can squeeze their bodies between six inch heels and feathers, strut across the Savannah stage, get their picture taken by tourists and boast they “play mas”.

The larger (as in portly) gentlemen walk with their hand held out stiffly, away from their sides, trying to make themselves look muscular. 12.30 gunslingers fit for pit! Rather like the way Mr Bush and his sidekick, Mr Blair, used to walk towards the podium during their adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr Putin prefers to ride horse, barebacked. We are ruled by knaves and rogues.

Curiously, unlike the walkers and strollers, there is no equivalent increase in bicyclists. Perhaps the high cost of bicycles? Perhaps cyclists emigrate for Carnival as more and more Trinis are doing?

Cycling up Chancellor seems to be an individual thing and there are few who do it. Cycling around the Savannah is a group event. An early morning event, in darkness. Usually done in silence although there is occasionally some chattering. This makes it difficult to hear them until they swoosh by, ten, fifteen or twenty at a time. They are also difficult to see. Like most Trini motorists, they appear not to believe in lights, no matter how dark the streets are at 5 in the morning. Perhaps one in three or four carry a bicycle light, usually at the rear of the machine. Those who do have a front light always seem to be at the back of the pack. Carefulness might be a sign of a weak rider.

I love cycling and I wish we had more facilities for riding in and into the city. Now there’s an idea for the government to consider in the coming guava days, cut down on traffic, gasoline consumption, noise, improve air quality, reduce stress, respiratory and cardiac illness, decrease obesity, diabetes, stroke and blood pressure, all in one go. The only people who could be against that are the owners of gyms and car salesmen and the unfortunate small-brained idiots (we don’t need Zika for that) driving around in their tiny cars with their arm sticking out of the window.

But early morning cyclists around the Savannah should do something about their bicycle lights. The bike sharrow that they use to ride on is dangerous without effective lighting and traffic calming measures. It is only a matter of time until a group is knocked down.

Last year it almost happened. Parked at the side of the Savannah in front of the Catholic Archbishop’s house in pre-dawn darkness and aware of a group of cyclists going around and around, I strained my eyes looking back down Maraval Road to QRC, saw nothing coming and was about to pull out when a car hastily exited Flood Street. As I pulled brakes the cycling group rushed past me, pedaling hard. Were it not for that Flood Street exit, they would have smashed into the rear of my car. Their car lights were mostly at their backs. 

Bicycle front lights are weak and move about a lot. They are difficult to see and if easy to miss them. 

Signage around the Savannah is poor and do not alert drivers that bicyclists are using the inner lane. Drunken or drug driving is the predominant type of driving at that time of the night. It will only get worse as Carnival approaches and more and more drivers exit the fetes.


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