Simple Pedestrian Rules For Visiting The Bahamas

(click for larger image)

Okay, so you are visiting the Bahamas, or any tropical country.  Here are the rules for being a pedestrian:

1) Drivers are not taught defensive driving.  They do not expect pedestrians to be on the surface of the roadway.

2) The roads are narrow.  This is an artifact of the colonial days.  Property walls come right to the edge of the roadway.  Oftentimes there is no shoulder to walk on.

3) Due to lack of rigid inspection standards, the cars are in very poor shape.  Many times they cannot stop quickly due to need of mechanical repair.

4) There is rarely enforcement of drinking and driving.  Also the Bahamas has a very active drug trade.  Impaired drivers are not routinely caught.

5) Speeding is an issue.  Because of the unsafe nature of the roads, even slight speeding is dangerous.  Roads are not banked or crowned.  Visibility is poor at intersections.  Vegetation grows to the edge of the roadways.

6) Large trucks are extremely dangerous.  There is no ongoing inspection regime.  One sees bald tires, swaying loads, mechanical breakage of hitches and no brakes.  Many accidents are caused by the trucks being unable to stop on a downhill run, such as the toll gates near the bridges.  Cars have been run over by dump trucks in the past.

7) As a remnant of the British system, cars drive on the left.  If you are from the US or Canada, you always look the wrong way to see oncoming traffic.  You have to look both ways twice before stepping on the surface of the roadway.

8) There were crosswalks on West Bay Street, however the Baha Mar complex caused a huge re-route and many were removed.  Do not count on motorists stopping for you at crosswalks, even on Paradise Island where there are speed bumps in front of the crosswalks.

9)  Tourists rent scooters and they are on unfamiliar roads.  I have seen more scooter accidents than I care to remember.  They also tend to run over and into things, including pedestrians because they normally do not drive scooters at home.  If I were a tourist to the Bahamas, I would not even rent a scooter.  Many of them are not mechanically maintained, and the unfamiliar roads with the potholes and inattentive drivers means that you take your life and limb into your hands when renting them.  Often times, the owners of the scooters have lapsed or inadequate insurance.

10) Bus stops are dangerous because all of the mini-buses called jitneys are privately owned.  The drivers race from stop to stop to beat the other buses to get the fares.

11) Ambulances are unreliable in the Bahamas.  Breakdowns are frequent and they have caught fire.  Ambulance attendants are not trained to North American paramedic standards in terms of dealing with major trauma.  They lack the equipment for major, life-threatening trauma.

12) Crime is rampant in the Bahamas.  Tourist may get robbed simply for the cell phone and the gold chain around your neck.  Stick to the well-traveled tourist areas.

All this to say, is that being a pedestrian is dangerous if there are no sidewalks.  And there are few or no sidewalks in places on Shirley Street which is the only main west-bound thoroughfare in Nassau.  The above photo was taken yesterday.  The guy lay on Shirley Street for over 20 minutes, bleeding from the head after being hit by a car.  This was in spite of the fact that the hospital and ambulance base is on Shirley Street.

You are better off to take a tour, take a taxi or stay in the tourist areas.  A vacation is supposed to be a vacation, and the Bahamas is not as idyllic as the travel posters would suggest.

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