Liberia News: Mixed Reactions

…As Police Enforces Regulations On Motorcyclists

Monrovia-May-17-TNR:The enforcement of restrictions on motorcyclists which commenced on Wednesday May 15, 2024 has been greeted with mixed reactions from the public.

While others welcomed the move by the Liberia National Police, others say the action of the police is untimely and therefore, must be abandoned.

Some Liberians see the exercise as safety measures intended to reduce the wave of accidents in the country, while other who opposed the move complained about the health measures which they said the government did not consider in implementing the regulations against the cyclists.

“Before implementing this measure, the government should’ve brought in more buses to ease the free movement of the citizens,” Jessie Mulbah a businessman complained while taking his walk around the 540 Junction yesterday.

For the past two days, several Liberians have been walking from one point to another due to the restrictions on motorcyclists. The move is affecting ordinary citizens who have no means of getting to their business places or work due to the shortage of commercial vehicles.

On the other hand, some commercial drivers have begun increasing their transport fares, while the few motorcyclists who have met the requirements are said to be charging passengers astronomically high.

Also commenting on the situation in a post, renowned Liberian Economist, has expressed his support for the enforcement of helmets and insurance on motorcycles saying that the process is good for public safety and is a desirable public policy.

In a post yesterday, Mr. Samuel P. Jackson noted, “I support the enforcement contrary to my political adversaries who view everything with partisan lenses. Protecting public safety is the responsibility of all citizens.”

However, according to Mr. Jackson, public policies to protect people from themselves and others cannot be enforced without critical thinking. He added, “This is where my views diverge from the emotional miscreants who think enforcing helmets and insurance is a right of historical wrongs from the Weah Administration.”

“That’s the Achilles heel of the current enforcement. It is not based on social equity, he added.

“According to a Motorcycle Union President, there are over 350,000 motorcyclists in Liberia. If that figure is correct, it would mean the Pehn Pehn industry is the second largest in the country next to agriculture. The industry serves a vital function as the primary means of transportation for most of the population. Any public policy that seeks to impose regulations on the industry must be done holistically to avoid inconsistency and incoherence,” Mr. Jackson noted.

He said the enforcement that began on the streets of Monrovia was a well-meaning effort by the LNP and we can all say bravo to the men and women in blue. “But the enforcement was disruptive, caused bedlam and public anguish.”

Jackson noted that ten minutes distances through city streets turned to hours. Many people walked miles to their destinations and the city’s economy was disrupted.”

He said the central goal of enforcement is noble but not enough thought went into it adding, “You cannot blame the LNP. Liberian officials in the transport sector fumbled badly.”

“For starters there was no inventory done to determine the number of helmets in country. My critics say each motorcycle is sold with a helmet. Perhaps true but most motorcycles are bought used as there is a huge secondary market of used bikes in the country that are not sold with helmets.”

Jackson added, “So that throws out their logic. In fact, illogical! Secondly who is responsible to provide helmets to passengers? There is no one size fits all helmet. How about the public health risks of sharing helmets from diseases and lice? Other medical risks, he questioned.

Mr. Jackson noted that insuring the risks in the motorcycle industry is not as simple as it appears as Liberian insurance companies do not have the capital to fund claims from the high degree of accidents, injuries and fatalities in the industry.

“The premiums might be too high if proper underwriting is done. That leads us to start thinking of pooled insurance with the support of the state. High risk drivers are placed into a pooled fund in some states in the U.S. such as the New Jersey fund that insured those with suspended licenses or other categories.”

In providing solution, Mr. Jackson added that what is needed in the long run is solution to our mass transit problem.

He said for now, a coordinated approach that is based on practicality and the public immediate interests must be considered.

“The problem does not require a knee jerk reaction but critical thinking. And that’s why the enforcement was disruptive and it could ultimately fail if we do not recalibrate. Public safety officials, transport economists, motorcycle unions and other stakeholders need to de more consultation to create a workable and sustainable solution with minimal disruption,” he concluded.

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