Bikers go past the Road Town Police Station during a vigil in memory of the late Brandon George, who was riding a scooter when he collided with a pickup along James Walter Francis Drive on September 27.
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
The increased number of young men riding scooters and bikes without proper protection gear and maneuvering in and out of traffic dangerously has caught the attention of the House of Assembly.
At least one Member of the House, At-Large Representative of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) Government, Hon. Archibald Christian made an appeal to those young men during the sitting of the House yesterday, October 15.
"And so I want to appeal to all the young people that ride motorbikes today; it is cool to wear a helmet; if you want to look good, it is cool to wear helmet. It is cheaper for us to save a life with a helmet, than for us to bury someone who did not wear a helmet. And riding through traffic, maneuvering in and out is dangerous; it's extremely dangerous. I want to appeal to the riders that use these vehicles as a mode of transportation, to use these vehicles wisely and carefully and responsibly," he implored on the youth.
Hon. Christian made mention of those youth that died as a result of accidents involving scooters and those who were seriously injured in recent years. He spoke of the latest accident involving Brandon George, the 18-year old scooter rider who died last month, September 27 following a collision with a pick-up on the James Walter Francis Drive.
The At-Large Representative said following George's death, he thought that other young men might have seen it as a wakeup call.
"And we had young Brandon George expire from the injuries of a motorcycle accident. We don't have the details surrounding the accident as yet, but based on eyewitness report thus far, it appears as if it was an accident. I would have thought that immediately after that accident the riders who have been, perhaps not paying full attention to the circumstances, would have had a change of heart, but lo and behold they are still on the streets riding motorcycles, maneuvering through traffic, in and out of traffic, running through red lights and not wearing helmets," he stated.
Hon. Christian lamented that what was more surprising was the fact that some of the young men were riding without helmets during George's vigil and the funeral procession.
"Saturday we had the funeral for young Brandon, a very painful funeral, heartbreaking; lots of teenagers, parents, family members in a state of pain and agony and distress because of the loss of a young one. And in the funeral procession and in the vigil, you still have the youngsters riding their bikes without their helmets. They may not be the ones that may cause an accident to happen, but the result could be fatal because of the circumstances," he opined.
The Legislator told the House that the whole issue continues to be one of public debate and some persons believe that there are certain sections of the society that are opposed to motorbikes. However, he believes that it is unfair if they are to go down that road.
"It's an alternative mode of transportation for persons who might have a preference for motorbikes or who cannot afford a vehicle. They are supposed to be treated as a vehicle to transport persons from point A to point B."
He argued, "There are laws governing the way these things are driven, or people may say ridden, and they come with responsibilities just like vehicles, just like trucks, backhoes, anything that moves along the public road...Require the users or operators to drive them in a responsible manner and that includes wearing helmets, not resting the helmets on your head, but ensuring the helmets are securely fasten to your head."
Police Need To Do More?
The public has been calling on the police do more, but the police force said there have been continued operations against bikes.
In a joint operation between the Traffic Department and the Tactical Unit in March, five motor scooters were seized in the Road Town area, one in Cane Garden Bay and one in the East End area for not having proof of ownership, license, insurance and registration. The scooters are usually held in police custody until the owners can produce the necessary documentation.
Superintendent St. Clair Amory had stated in March that efforts to curb the number of scooters and cycles driven without the necessary credentials and outfitted with mufflers to emit loud noises continue to be a priority.
"We are concerned that there is still a large number of scooter riders on the Territory's roads that have not met the requirements by law. There are many young scooter and cycle owners who do not have licenses and therefore do not have insurance for these vehicles. We have an obligation to the public to ensure that all who use the roadways have the necessary credentials and that these vehicles are not a noise nuisance to the public," Armory had stated.
The Royal Virgin Islands Police Force is looking to church or youth leaders, relatives, friends, and in particular, parents, to do their part in safeguarding lives by encouraging young motor scooter or cycle riders to abide by the law.
The law requires that operators of scooters or cycles be 16 years or older and have a valid motorcycle permit or a Class 'M' VI motorcycle driver's license. A three-month permit to ride is obtained in order to prepare for the driving test administered through the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV). The permit, which is only valid for three months, will allow a rider to take that test and ensure competency to operate a motor scooter.
Legal operators must have their scooters or cycles registered with the DMV and can only do so if the cycle is within the legal size limit of 125cc or below.
Two identification plates issued upon registration must be affixed to the scooter or cycle - one at the front and one at the back. In addition, the vehicle must also be licensed with a policy of insurance.
Police stated that while the high cost of scooter/cycle insurance may be an issue for some, it covers the rider, the cycle and someone else's property damage in the event of a collision.
The law requires that crash helmets be worn by both riders and passengers when the vehicle is in operation and it is strongly advised that cyclists wear proper safety gear. Exposed skin in a fender-bender can be tragic for a cyclist, the police have advised.