“Know what the problem is with these sidewalks, Daddy?” my son said to me. “They have all these holes you have to step over.” Sure enough, the sidewalks of Santo Domingo are full of holes, and my son has to cross them with his short legs. Many of them, I explained, are deep gutters that are needed because the streets don’t have underground sewers to drain stormwater. The previous night a friend of ours had had a difficult time pushing her toddler in a stroller; she not only had to cross all the drainage ditches but all the other places where the pavement is broken. And every time we came across a car parked on the narrow sidewalk, she had to steer the stroller across the gutter into the street and back again.
They are working on drainage here in Santo Domingo de Guzm?n, capital of the Dominican Republic; an entire block of the Avenida Alma Mater is torn up, presumably due to sewer construction. Unfortunately, one night when we were walking on the Malecón, a waterfront boulevard that’s Santo Domingo’s answer to New York’s West Street, the entire crosswalk at Alma Mater was blocked by this construction. My guidebook says that on the weekends some sections of the are opened to pedestrians and cyclists as in Bogotá’s Ciclovía, but last night there was no way to cross the speeding traffic, so we had to backtrack a block to get around the construction.
The worst experience we’ve had so far was at the intersection of Avenida Máximo Gómez and the Avenida Mirador Norte, where the bus dropped us off on the east side of a four-lane road full of traffic speeding off a bridge. To get to the Avenida Mirador Norte, we had to cross the traffic and climb over a two-foot barrier with no traffic signal, not easy to do with a five-year-old.
The other salient features of the pedestrian environment in Santo Domingo are that it’s hot, noisy and polluted. Nothing to be done about the heat, but hopefully the noise and pollution will improve in the future as older, noisier and more polluting vehicles are replaced.
Despite these problems, the streets of Santo Domingo aren’t actually that bad. I’ll tell you why in my next post.