Accidents in Cuba, Systemic Chaos

Lynn Cruz

HAVANA TIMES – Today, at 10:55 AM, I witnessed an accident on Linea Avenue, when a medium-size urban city bus hit a 40-something year old woman.

The woman was lying on the ground. An ambulance immediately appeared, luckily a man passing by had also seen it happen, and he was a nurse. I waited for the paramedics to come with their equipment to neutralize the different parts of her body and prevent moving her in case there were any fractures to the skull, but they only had one stretcher, and also asked men who were drawn to the scene to help them.

The bus driver, a young man who was barely 30 years old, his nerves on end, said that he was driving properly, but the woman came out in front of him and he couldn’t do anything but try and dodge her. It seemed that he hit her leg, as she was bleeding there. There were witnesses, that is to say, passengers who could confirm what happened.

I was walking along the opposite side of the road, and as I drew nearer to help the woman, I was struck by why a young woman would be so careless.

The main reason was that Linea Avenue, which is a dual carriageway with a median strip, had one of its sides closed, so the other one was working in both directions. I realized that there was a cycling race and that’s why it had been decided that one side would be closed to ensure the safety of participants.

The woman probably didn’t realize that, and only looked one way, in the direction traffic normally comes, so she didn’t notice that a bus was coming at her in the opposite direction down Linea Avenue.

In less than a month, I have heard many stories about these kinds of accidents. It happened in Matanzas in January and a great friend of mine was hit by two TRANSTUR buses while trying to cross another avenue. Unfortunately, she lost her life and the bus drivers are in jail.

In late 2018, the 21 urban city bus heading for the 2 de Diciembre neighborhood, located in the town of Gelpi (also in Matanzas), hit a girl who had fallen off her grandfather’s bike in the middle of the road, since there isn’t a cyclist lane. Mistakes on the road are paid with human lives. Road accidents left 683 people dead and 7,730 people injured across the country, in 2018 alone.

An increasing number of vehicles on our roads in recent years is also noteworthy. It’s true that traffic signals with pedestrian crossings have been added, but they aren’t enough.

Not being able to safely cross large avenues is the main danger that pedestrians face today. The number of vehicles on our roads can’t continue to grow without first ensuring safety measures, such as the construction of pedestrian bridges and danger signs that remind us where people have died.

Improvisation, a lack of urban planning during the growth of neighborhoods without an urban layout that can sustain constant traffic, or heavy vehicles, laziness, are other possible causes for the accidents I’ve mentioned above.

Who is to blame for the accident I witnessed today? The woman who was crossing a one-way street, that had become a two-way street without any signs or warning? The bus driver who was driving at a normal speed? The organizers of the cycling event? The Ministry of the Interior who is also responsible for traffic? The Ministry of Construction for its poor physical planning?

All three cases I’ve mentioned share one thing in common, in spite of having happened in different places. Two of them were trying to cross an avenue with a limited number and far-separated pedestrian crossings, and one was traveling along a road that had become an avenue due to the rapid growth of a neighborhood that doesn’t have sidewalks or cycling lanes.

Lynn Cruz

It's not art that imitates life, its life that imitates art," said Oscar Wilde. And art always goes a step further. I am an actress and writer. For me, art, especially writing, is a way of exorcising demons. It is something intimate. However, I decided to write journalism because I realized that I did not exist. In Cuba, only the people authorized by the government have the right to express themselves publicly. Havana Times is an example of coexistence within a democracy and since I consider myself a democrat, my dream is to integrate this publication’s philosophy into the reality of my country.

4 thoughts on “Accidents in Cuba, Systemic Chaos

  • February 25, 2019 at 1:33 pm
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    Cuban highways are poorly lit, narrow and rutted with huge potholes. There were 750 deaths and 7,999 injuries in 11,187 accidents last year in Cuba. The Baracoa /Guantanamo bus accident this year was the 4th major bus accident in a month. 7 died, 5 critically injured. In Granma last year , I was there when a vehicle carrying workers into Pilon early morning went off the mountain road and a teacher, well known in the mountain villages , was killed. I travel that mountain road a lot coming from Manzanillo and can never forget this accident. Cuba says it welcomes tourists like me.. if the government does not care enough for its’ citizens, then show some concern for tourists , like those killed in Baracoa. We feed the cuban economy,.. it’s common sense. Yet my bus taking me to Marea must go through cratered roads close to the sea edge, through flooded road sections , first timers are at first amazed, marvelling at the driver’s ability , but they have no idea of the number of times there were narrow misses.

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  • February 25, 2019 at 6:34 pm
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    Pedestrian bridges are not an answer! They would only cause exclusion and isolation of the elderly and people with reduced mobility, unable to walk up the steps in Cuba’s heat, while encouraging even more reckless driving. What is needed are more well-marked pedestrian crossings on ground level and heavier enforcement of safe driving rules, in particular zero tolerance for speeding and reckless driving.

    Reply
  • February 25, 2019 at 8:22 pm
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    Anyone tried crossing the Malecon – especially at night? The volume of traffic compared to 20 years ago is unbelievable. The short term and cheapest answer? Strict speed limits. Eventually, pedestrian crossings can be built. Joint venture projects need to include infrastructure repairs as this benefits everyone not just tourists/government coffers.

    Reply
  • February 27, 2019 at 4:36 am
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    In my experience most Cubans are lazy whilst on the road. Pedestrians cross streets with poor or no regard for traffic. They don’t care for traffic. Many accidents I’ve seen could have been avoided easily. But someway it’s deep in them to wait for others to announce there proximity.

    Reply

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