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ON THE OTHER HAND: Bringing City alive

Peter Laurie

ON THE OTHER HAND: Bringing City alive

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It’s people who make cities vibrant.
So, in addition to attracting more residents back to Bridgetown, we must also create more activities and entertainment in public places to interest them and international visitors.
Example: a ceremonial “changing of the guard” on Tuesdays and Wednesdays when the House and Senate are in session; a weekly “sound and light” show on the history of Parliament from Independence Square; concerts and other performances in various public spaces; and organized weekly/daily tours of Parliament, Government House and Ilaro Court.
Markets in cities around the world attract not just locals but visitors. For example, the Central Fish Market in Santiago, Chile, is a major tourism attraction. In addition to the fish stalls, there are some 30 restaurants offering delicious seafood meals.
We can do something similar with our own markets.
But what we need is much more well regulated vending in public spaces. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Just go online and look at the famous Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Oregon. It allows a small number of precisely regulated food carts and other types of commercial activity, as well as art shows and musical events.  
Regulated street vending has several advantages: it provides self-employment; teaches entrepreneurship; attracts people; adds a festive atmosphere to public spaces; promotes local food and crafts, and keeps down crime.
We could also have regular night markets in Bridgetown: close Broad Street to traffic and organize a market of arts, crafts, flea market items and food. Stores would open late. Bars, restaurants and nightclubs in the centre could also participate.
In addition, we ought to use public spaces and heritage buildings like the Empire Theatre, Marshall Hall, Queen’s Park Theatre and the Frank Collymore Hall to showcase the performing and visual arts and as venues for festivals.
All this cultural activity should enliven the evenings, especially if there are cafes and bars along the waterfront where one could go after the performances. With more cultural activities, more residents and better infrastructure and security, Bridgetown would come alive at night.
Traffic congestion, inadequate parking and poor provision for pedestrians deter many people from visiting Bridgetown. Moving people to and from Bridgetown by public transport is critical if we are to solve current traffic congestion.
Our present public transport system should be reorganized into criss-crossing routes with transfer tickets. This would remove the need for the Bridgetown bus terminals. Passengers would simply catch a bus from wherever they happened to be and transfer subsequently to the bus going to their destination without paying an additional fare.
A simple solution to car congestion is to create park-and-ride facilities on the outskirts of Bridgetown off the Ronald Mapp Highway (Highway 2A) with a shuttle service into The City. Then in the inner core of The City we might have electric golf cart-type trollies, charging $1 per passenger, travelling circular routes in and around the centre.
Visitors might enjoy a privately owned hop-on, hop-off tour bus, visiting the major sites in and around Bridgetown.
How about dedicated cycle lanes?
Land transport should be supplemented by a sea ferry service running along the South and West Coasts (with jetties) as far as Oistins and Holetown, respectively, and at points within Bridgetown from the Port to Needham’s Point.  
There should be parking meters on all appropriate streets with high charges ($1 for 15 minutes) in the core and lesser rates farther out. No free on-street parking in The City.
We need a complete review of traffic management so as to facilitate pedestrian comfort and safety, and we have to vastly improve sidewalks.
We need information kiosks and uniform signage in Bridgetown. Not just indicators of where you are and where to go; but attractive signage that is also fully descriptive of the numerous historical sites in our town.
Critically, we need an independent entity to manage Bridgetown. No benefactor will throw money into the black hole of a consolidated fund. But many would generously contribute to specific, well managed projects.
• Peter Laurie is a retired diplomat and commentator on social issues.