Some motorbikes and four-wheelers are becoming an increasingly dangerous menace on Tortola roads, and the community needs to fight back before more lives are lost.
Two young men were killed last month in tragic wrecks involving first a motor-scooter and then an all-terrain vehicle. Our hearts go out to their loved ones.
Police have released scant information about the deaths, and we don’t know much about the circumstances surrounding them. We do know, however, that more deaths are imminent if reckless riders are not reined in.
This problem has been longstanding on Tortola, but in recent months it seems to have begun spinning out of control. Riders brazenly weave through vehicles on public roads. They speed, spin out, race and pop wheelies. Many don’t wear helmets in spite of the law requiring them to do so, and those who do often choose unsafe options that are not fit for purpose.
Such behaviour is extremely unsafe, both for the reckless riders themselves and for other drivers and pedestrians. And besides the safety issues, the bikes often create a noise disturbance, keeping residents awake by racing late at night.
We don’t know why the situation has degenerated in recent months, but we can’t help wondering if unscrupulous riders have been emboldened by the new government’s plan to lift the ban on bikes larger than 125cc.
Given the current problems, this plan seems misguided. Police clearly are unable to properly regulate the small scooters allowed now: How can they regulate larger bikes that will go much faster and pose greater danger to the public if driven recklessly?
Besides, given that 125cc bikes seem more than capable of exceeding all of the territory’s speed limits, why are larger bikes needed here in the first place?
Moving forward, something must be done to ensure that riders learn and follow the rules of the road.
To that end, police are on the front lines. They have complained in the past that bikes are difficult to regulate because they can’t safely chase them. But there are other options.
For example, they might consider carrying out more traffic stops at which they confiscate unlicensed bikes and penalise unlicensed riders.
They might also arm themselves with video cameras. By filming for an hour or two in Road Town or East End, we suspect they could identify several riders breaking laws.
Parents, too, must step up the plate. The great majority of reckless bikers are young men, many of whom are still students. No adult should permit their children to take such risks. Nor should they leave them in a position where they might need a bike for transportation.
Legislators, meanwhile, should review the laws and consider what penalties could be raised to help deter infractions and what restrictions could be strengthened to ensure that only knowledgeable riders are allowed to obtain a licence.
Most importantly, riders themselves need to take responsibility for their actions, with older ones teaching their younger counterparts to be safe. If they want the rules loosened, they should collectively show that they can handle themselves properly under the existing regime.
The recent biker fair at Wickhams Cay— which was a partnership between the Department of Motor Vehicles and a company that plans to host a “biker’s run” next month — seemed like a step in the right direction. The event focused in large part on education and safety, and we suspect many riders came away wiser. We hope the bike run next month will follow the same standards.
By working together to promote biker safety, the community can save lives. We’re sure of it.