When It Comes to Auto Supremacy, No Island Is an Island
[Old San Juan's] biggest assets are these charming old, winding streets and all of these incredible old buildings. The streets are absolutely perfect for strolling and shopping and sitting at cafe tables. And they are almost totally useless for motor vehicles. And, yet, there is no strolling, shopping, or sitting at cafe tables on the streets of Old San Juan. Rather, the public space between these beautiful old buildings is almost entirely dedicated to traffic and parking.
In this shot, fellow cruisers weave awkwardly through traffic on a Segway
tour of Old San Juan. Out of frame is their guide, who led them on
Here, the wide, inviting sidewalk leading to a gorgeous municipal building is used for personal parking.
Puerto Rico wasn't the only island I visited that has been turned over to the auto. In St. Thomas, pedestrians are crowded onto sidewalks that are no more than three to four feet wide in some spots, while cars are given parking and at least one travel lane.
And on beautiful St. Kitts, which I was fortunate enough to see by rail, much of the countryside has been turned into a junkyard.
The eco-evils of cruise ships aside, I'm not sure how much the presence of relatively affluent vacationers helps or hurts these poverty-stricken destinations. But from what I saw the auto-related blight and hazardous pedestrian conditions aren't hampering the tourist trade. Could be that many of those who visit just don't notice. Or maybe it's the weather, or, as Aaron noted, the unlimited food and $8.50 tropical drinks to be had back on the boat.
Photos: Brad Aaron