Restrictions imposed since 2013 on commercial motorbikes in central Monrovia by government the Liberia National Police (LNP) are now hurting certain businesses that have invested in the vehicles for courier services. Many of the companies affected are among Monrovia’s popular restaurants and delivery services. As one might imagine, food delivery in progress that gets arrested by police under the regulation against “commercial motorbikes”, have generated many unhappy customers, frustrated restaurant owners and spoiled food.
The restrictions were imposed after the Liberian government decided to keep commercial motorcycles — particularly those used for passenger transport — out of the city. At the time, passenger transport was the only kind of business motorcycles were used for. However, just before the restrictions, few businesses, especially restaurants, had begun to use motorcycles to offer delivery services, which expanded business earnings and created employment opportunities. Though courier service motorbikes do not carry passengers, they are also affected by the LNP restriction.
“The problem is, police officers don’t make a difference between motorbikes,” says Mazen K. Halabi, founder and chief executive officer of Monroe Chicken a popular fast-food restaurant in Monrovia.
According to Halabi, 85% of his company’s revenue is generated from deliveries. “Our business involves delivering our services to customers in and out of the city of Monrovia,” he told the Daily Observer, “and because our motorbikes are not allowed to operate in the city, it affects the smooth operation of our business.”
“We are not allowed to use our bikes in the city. Our bikes are arrested by police officers and though we have an arrangement with the police to provide us with passes, yet we are not allowed to operate.
However, LNP spokesman Sam Collins told the Daily Observer that police officers discovered passes issued to courier motorbikes were not effective. Therefore, he said, courier motorbikes are now required to be conspicuously identified with the names of their respective companies. “Courier bikes have a box at the back and the box must be marked with the name of the company that owns it.”
Mr. Halabi said his motorbikes are clearly marked and yet they are still arrested, preventing workers from carrying out their deliveries.
“We’re now using tricycles to reach some of our customers in central Monrovia, or walk if traffic cannot permit us to reach our customers with the tricycle,” he said.
Monroe Chicken is not alone. Two other food courier service providers, Diana Restaurant and Cookshop.biz, are also severely affected, and business has been slower, according to their managers.
“We have not been able to utilize motorbikes for the last twenty days,” said a manager at Diana Restaurant on Center Street.
Charles D. Cooper, co-owner of Cookshop.biz, said even though he has followed all regulations, police officers have not relented on their restrictions on motorbikes that perform courier services. Cookshop.biz is a new online service that allows customers to order food from nearly all major restaurants in Monrovia for delivery in and around the city. With a target delivery time of approximately 25 minutes per order, Cookshop.biz relies entirely on motorcycles to successfully implement its business model.
“The Ministry of Transport said our bikes are authorized to ply the streets and so we want the LNP to inform their officers,” Cooper said.