Right Steps & Poui Trees

Kingston: A green city or a concrete jungle?


Architect Ann Hodges has a letter in today’s Gleaner, a letter which focuses on the developments taking place on the street on which she lives – Lady Musgrave Road. In it, she expresses concerns that many people have, myself included, about the nature of some of the building that is taking place across the city. I have printed the letter in full below.

Letter of the Day – Highway or avenue?


Why do we put so much money and effort into making roads better for cars and practically no money into making roads and sidewalks better for people?

It has become clear that we need a radically different approach to urban roads and transport. A transport system that relies on motor cars to move people through the city (good though it may be for revenue collection on import duty and fuel tax) is not sustainable.

The city is heating up due to trees making way for asphalt and concrete. Jamaicans need to consider how we can contribute to the fight against global warming and climate change, and providing shade and good public transport in our cities would be a good start.

I recently took a walk from one end of Lady Musgrave Road in St Andrew to the other. In some places the sidewalk is blocked by branches and rubbish, and sometimes the sidewalk disappears altogether and pedestrians are forced into the carriageway to cross over a gully or drain.

For a few sections, there are street trees, the last remaining survivors of the trees planted in middle of the last century. For these short shady sections, it was a pleasant walk. Vendors and other pedestrians were friendly and curious to know what a white woman like me was doing walking rather than driving.


Lady Musgrave Road, like many in cities throughout the world, is a street lined with a mix of commercial and residential uses and could, therefore, potentially be much more than a highway across town.

If we were to develop the sidewalks, with an even surface, plant trees to cool and remove the obstacles and heaps of trash, Lady Musgrave Road could be a beautiful pedestrian and vehicular boulevard, leading from Old Hope Road to the gates of King’s House, with views of Vale Royal on the way.

The Government has announced that Lady Musgrave Road is to be widened to two lanes in each direction. This will leave even fewer sidewalks and no trees. We have to ask, to what end?

Traffic on Lady Musgrave is currently moderate except at peak hours. At peak hours, as a Jamaican traffic engineer currently practicing in DC has explained, the capacity of Lady Musgrave to move traffic is dependent on how many vehicles can leave the road at its ends. We can stack vehicles two abreast along Lady Musgrave, but it will not help if they cannot then get through the lights at Hope Road.

Also, as we have seen elsewhere, a four-lane highway becomes a racetrack off peak, which leads our engineering team wanting to put up concrete barriers to avoid head-on collisions! This is a vicious cycle and not a viable solution.


Jamaica and Kingston are suffering from a lack of joined-up planning. We are seeing a race to high-density development without any plans in place for the parks or walkable streets that would allow residents to access services.

Why does the National Works Agency plan for vehicles without planning for pedestrians? What is our transport policy? Why are we not planning for a public urban transport system that even an MP or CEO would be comfortable using?

I speak of the street where I live but the principle and situation are the same throughout the city.

Kingston has a choice between being a green city or a concrete jungle. At present, the Government and developers, with the acquiescence of the planners, seem to have chosen concrete.


Lady Musgrave Road

Author: rightpouitree

Navigating the real and virtual worlds and sometimes writing about what I observe...

3 thoughts on “Kingston: A green city or a concrete jungle?

  1. Reblogged this on Petchary's Blog and commented:
    I had planned to share this Letter to the Editor myself, but fellow blogger Susan Goffe beat me to it. There is a creeping tide of concrete across the island nowadays, in the name of “development” and “progress.” Well, in my view both those lovely words should really be about improving our quality of life, but it seems our planners are only planning for machines, not humans – gas-guzzling, polluting machines at that. This is not only an issue in the beauty spot of Portland, now despoiled – and other rural areas. It is happening in the city I call home. As the author of this letter, Architect Ann Hodges points out “KINGSTON HAS A CHOICE BETWEEN BEING A GREEN CITY OR A CONCRETE JUNGLE.” Well, we are not leaning towards the green option, that’s for sure.

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  2. Pingback: Kingston: A green city or a concrete jungle?-October 12, 2021 – Jamaica: Political Economy

  3. Very well written and it is a harsh truth which I have mixed feelings about. While I welcome the wider roadways which may reduce our peak hour traffic problem especially as more and more Jamaicans become motorists, very little attention is being placed on making the road safe for pedestrians. It’s as if we’re trying to eliminate foot traffic and embrace this sedentary and environmentally unhealthy culture of everyone driving personal motor vehicles every day often with just one driver and no passenger. Our inefficient public transport option is another story….

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