Over the weekend, President George Weah announced that motorcyclists should now begin to ply major roads they were restricted from plying. Lifting of the restriction, according to the President, is in line with his government’s “Pro-poor” agenda because the government is for the poor which includes motorcyclists.
According to eye-witnesses, lifting the ban brought jubilation among motorcyclists on last Saturday, resulting in a number of accident cases involving motorcycles and vehicles in different locations, including Red-Light and at Barnersville Junction.
There was also an instance at the Old Road Junction near former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s home, where a commercial motorcyclist nearly hit a police officer who was directing traffic yesterday morning. The restriction was imposed by the past administration as part of efforts to reduce the high incidence of traffic accidents and fatalities resulting therefrom.
But we have held the apparently mistaken belief that President Weah would have pondered or studied the consequences of whatever proposed changes he intended to make to standing regulations restricting commercial motorcycles to certain parts of the city.
What were some of the problems that led to restrictions being imposed on motorcyclists from plying major streets in Monrovia? Prior to putting into place the restrictive measures, numerous accidents involving motorcycles and vehicles, most of them fatal, were recorded daily in Monrovia.
We recall several incidents, at Red light, GSA Road junction and Somalia Drive, where motorcyclists have reacted violently, (setting cars ablaze, etc,) to the deaths of fellow motorcyclists resulting from traffic accidents involving motorcycles and vehicles.
In many recorded instances, Motorcyclists have been held responsible for the accidents which they often tried to justify through acts of lawless behavior intended to dissuade Police remedial action.
At one point in time, the snatching of phones, purses and handbags by individuals mounted on motorcycles led to heightened public concern about such criminal behavior which led to the introduction of restrictive methods to reduce the theft, as well as rising incidents of motorcycle accidents resulting in death.
Furthermore, unrestricted plying of the streets by motorcyclists tended to increase armed robbery activities by criminal-minded individuals using motorcycles to transport themselves to targeted areas or to speedily get away after commission of a crime.
Since the imposition of restrictive measures on movement of motorcycles, the rate of motorcycle related accidents has tended to drop, likewise phone and purse snatching by individuals mounted on motorcycles.
Hence, news of the lifting of restrictions placed on commercial motorcyclists in Monrovia has received unwelcome reception from the public. Comments from callers on radio talk shows in Monrovia on Monday, March 5 were in general, largely opposed to the President’s decision to lift the ban.
Many callers monitored on local radio talk shows have expressed fears that such a decision could again lead to situations reminiscent of days gone by when hospitals were filled with wounded patients as a result of motorcycle accidents.
At this stage, it is not clear what due diligence President Weah carried out to arrive at the decision that dissolved the “No go zone” order imposed by the Liberia National Police (LNP) on motorcyclists.
In the eyes of the public, the decision to restrict commercial motorcyclists from plying major streets was based on considerations of public safety as well as security, which by far outweighed the benefits of allowing unrestricted use of commercial motorcycles in and around Monrovia.
Moreover, the available evidence shows that there was a drastic reduction in mortality rates arising from motorcycle accident cases in the aftermath of imposed restrictions.
Since taking office on January 22, President George Weah has proved to be responsive to public sentiment as manifested by his decision to withdraw the nomination of Cllr. Charles Gibson after much public outcry about his integrity.
We hope as public sentiments continue to swell against the lifting of this restriction, President Weah will have a rethink and have his officials come up with viable alternatives under the Pro-Poor agenda in order to address the concerns of commercial motorcyclists in ways that will prove mutually beneficial to all.