Mission: safer roads for cyclists in Trinidad and Tobago
Popular as a means of transport, a leisure activity and as a competitive sport, cycling should be nurtured in all its forms and at all levels.
However the successful integration of everyday and sporting cycling is not always a priority of major national cycling federations. Earlier this autumn we reported on British Cycling’s successful advocacy policies. Now we turn our attention to Trinidad and Tobago, former British territory and little sport powerhouse, especially in track and field (14 medals at the Olympic Games).
For the moment, cycling lags behind on these twin islands.
- Olympic cycling medals won by Great Britain: 75. By Trinidad and Tobago: 0 (though at London 2012 the national star Njisane Phillip finished 4th in the individual sprint).
- Yearly UCI-sanctioned events: 79 vs. 3 (1 road, 2 track).
- Members’ headcount: 100,000 vs. 400.
But the two Federations have a shared vision: improving conditions for all cyclists. It does not necessarily take a Sir Chris Hoy to campaign for better cycling.
Since last November the T&T Cycling Federation (TTCF) has a new president, Robert Farrier. Two issues seem to be high on his agenda: sport development and cycling for all.
As is often the case, the two are intertwined. The new leadership is looking into nurturing a new generation of endurance roadies, in a country of natural born sprinters. But to do so, safe streets are one of the priorities in this country that recently mourned the loss of former national cyclist and coach Clinton Grant who was struck by a car when out riding.
TTCF is strengthening its partnerships with a number of stakeholders in the transport sector – namely the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) “Arrive Alive” and “Share the Road”, the Ministry of Transport and the Police.
“(Safer roads for cyclists) is nothing one organisation can solve, everyone must work together, educate drivers and enforce the laws. Many drivers are not aware that one lane is for cyclists” says former national cyclist Gene Samuel.
The Ministry of Transport, which declares itself “fully cognizant of the contribution of the transportation sector to the country’s carbon footprint” is increasingly looking at active and sustainable transport as an important component of the transport mix. Cycling is a part of it, provided that the Police enforces the rules and educates drivers with the aim of protecting the most vulnerable road users.
The country’s high obesity rates (30% according to the World Health Organization) is another social problem that more active transport could help tackle.
Farrier has a regional best practice to take inspiration from: Guadeloupe, where first-class bike paths provide locals and tourists with a popular recreational facility.
In addition, a major breakthrough is set to change the cycling landscape of the country in the very near future: the inauguration of the National Cycling Centre, which will include a state-of-the-art velodrome. Managed by SporTT, a subsidiary of the Ministry of Sport in charge of facility building and management, this top-notch sport infrastructure will bring top cyclists from the region to train and race in Trinidad and Tobago.
“We will talk to SporTT to bring top cyclists here to set up camps and so on in winter time” added Farrier. “It attracts competition. It will be a plus for us and them.”
The country is home to the sole UCI-sanctioned event in the Caribbean, the Tobago International Cycling Classic, now at its 28th edition. While realistic concerning the event’s current status, Jeff Charles – long-standing event chairman and promoter – sees the potential for the creation of a sporting tourism avenue in the islands.
Cycle-tourism, road safety, bike infrastructure, events, cross-sectoral work: TTCF (which has no paid staff) is a scale-drawing of what a NF with a vision should be.