So unruly are they and adamant about staying on the fringe of regulation, the private minibus and ZR operators have now moved the River Terminal to the north fringe of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. I wanted to feel as though my eyes had deceived me a few weeks ago when I noticed a van driver and a conductor both relieving themselves behind the two open doors of the public service vehicle they were responsible for.
Alas, I am now sure that my mind did not play tricks because I saw other public service operators doing the same thing over the last few weeks. I hope that we do not allow this new trend to use this space to cut traffic and avoid having to go into the turnstile to persist for years before it is addressed. The Hospital pasture is one of a few important green spaces in the Bridgetown area.
It serves multiple purposes. I have seen new fathers, and other family members come out and sit in their cars as they adjusted to the emotions of either grief or joy that having loved ones in the hospital can bring. The footballers and cricketers from the nearby St. Michael School use the pasture as their substantive pasture as their school does not have the land space to accommodate a proper size field.
The cricket ground also has a club and BCA sanctioned cricket is played there in season. We know that the pasture acts as parking space for large events such as Agrofest and Crop Over. The lawlessness and disrespect for nature which is associated with public service ZRs and minibuses should not be allowed to take over this communal space.
I remember writing a few weeks ago, when the privately owned public service vehicles were on strike, that we were simplifying the real issues that needed to be addressed. I made the point that we had to not only look at the behaviours associated with the public service vehicle sector but also what changing these looked like in an overarching and permanent fashion.
Until we accept that the behaviours we see in the minibus and ZR sectors are more than just a hustle, we will not, to my mind, tackle the problem adequately. There is a culture and world view that drives the drivers and conductors in the public service vehicle sector that is not restricted to the road alone. Many of the drivers who partake in the lawless behaviour in the sector have grown up in households that are complex, if not flat out dysfunctional.
Others may have been raised in fairly healthy family environments but opt into alternative lifestyles during school and as young adults. There is a significant connection between the public service vehicle lawlessness and other types of lawlessness that now result in the high murder and assault rates that we have.
In order to get us past the scourge of their behaviours, we first need to be serious about them. If there is now a van stand with a regulated exit and this is to make them take turns and control their congestion at loading points, that has to be it. If they are caught loading, setting down passengers, or making turns in the roadway at points other than the van stand, the behavior needs to attract sanctions and penalties.
We also have to address the communities, social problems and related concerns that the drivers and conductors in the sector present with. It is harder to teach a man who cannot read or write to reason than one who has benefitted from the process. These drivers behave the way they do because of their inability to apply basic reason and logic.
The public has also tried to signal that the hygiene of these drivers and conductors must be improved. If a ZR driver or conductor is comfortable to relieve himself on the Queen Elizabeth Hospital pasture in full public court, I doubt that he will worry about washing his hands or even using hand sanitizer. That driver will then make change for several hundred people and repeat the process over and again.
We also have had a discussion about the promiscuity of the conductors and ZR drivers in Barbados. What we have not been honest about is that many of these sexual acts occur on the very seats in the vans that transport us to and from.
They may not be protesting any more. The new van stand has been built, things have changed and yet remain the same. We are still in need of an overarching solution to address the ills with private service vehicles in Barbados on the eve of one of the biggest hikes in bus fare in my living memory.
(Marsha Hinds is public relations officer of the National Organization of Women. Email: [email protected]gmail.com)