In Jamaica, if you are at home, you are at your yard. If you are anywhere but home, you are on the road. I am on the road a lot, figuratively and literally. I walk most places and run almost every morning as the sun rises. So I see a lot of interesting things, especially related to transporting people and things to and fro. Many of these things would horrify people, especially those in the practice of safety standard regulation. What follows is a run-down of scenarios I have seen on the road.
Things I have seen balancing on the frame of a bike while the operator drives it: a table saw, large cardboard boxes; children with no helmets; groceries; brooms; newspapers…
It is also popular for a whole load of people (including tiny children) to pile into the back of a pickup truck, or even a massive telecom utility truck. This would not be so bad on rural roads, but this is done on the torrid, fast streets of downtown Kingston.
This morning I saw a small truck loaded down with about a dozen dogs, mostly pit bulls and German Shephards, gated into a tiny space, snarling and barking.
People also like to take public transport, but not always actually in the bus; sometimes they hold onto the back window. And this is a window on a Greyhound-size carrier, going 60km/h on a busy street.
Another quirk of the transportation system is that people will often stop whenever and wherever they want, regardless of their surroundings. So a taxi will stop in the middle of a road to let people out or talk to a fellow taxi driver, or someone will stop to pop out and buy something from a fruit stand.
Most of this is entertaining, however, some of it is heart-stopping, especially when it involves children. Seeing a tiny child, clad in their school uniform, balancing on a bike as someone manouevers it through rush-hour traffic is the worst. This is in stark contrast to my hometown of Ottawa, where are trying to make it mandatory to wear a helmet when participating in almost any ambulatory activity.