Regional

Bike Ban

Little London High students barred from commuting on bike taxis

BY ANTHONY LEWIS
Observer West writer

Thursday, October 10, 2019

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LITTLE LONDON, Westmoreland — AS of Monday, Little London High School students will no longer be able to commute to or from school on bike taxis following a decision by the board of governors of the institution for the practice to cease.

The decision to impose the ban was taken last Thursday after a series of accidents involving a number of the illegal bike taxis that transport students to schools in the area.

“The decision has been made and will be enforced without any apology. A total ban on all bikes coming to Little London High School transporting students will be implemented effective Monday the 14th of October 2019,” stressed Garfield James, principal.

The ban will not only affect bike taxi operators, but also parents who transport their children on motorcycles to and from school.

As an alternative, the school says a shuttle system comprising licensed private motor vehicles and the school's own bus, will transport students from the Little London square to the school free of cost, between the hours of 7:00 am and 8:10 am, and also after school in the afternoons.

And while not citing details, James made it clear that sanctions will be imposed on students who fail to comply with the new rule, stressing that the school will not reverse its decision.
“The fact is that I don't have the legal authority to police any bike on the road, but I have legal authority as a school over the students who are students of this institution. Hence, the application of sanction is directly aimed at the students,” the principal argued.

James has been principal at Little London High for more than seven years.

He noted that while the bikers do provide a service, their general disregard for the Road Traffi Act has got out of hand.

“Despite the valuable service that they provide, it has reached a situation where it is now a crisis; a time bomb waiting to explode based on what is happening now. The bikers have taken over the roadway from the [Little London] square to the school where they traverse through the community of Top Road to get to Little London High School without any regard for the law as it relates to the traffic act. There is total disregard for how they transport students,” James said.

“We have always tried to extend our hand in support towards the bikers in terms of the service that they provide [because] the reality is if the students don't come to school, then they can't learn. The reality is, if they don't come to school on time, then it affects their classes, and the holistic development of those students are adversely affected,” he argued further.

In an effort to address the issue, the school has previously partnered with the police who have tried on numerous occasions to meet with the bikers and encourage them to comply with the Road Traffic Act. Director of the Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Transport and Mining, Kenute Hare, has also tried to educate the bikers on the proper use of the roads.
But despite these efforts, behaviour on the roads shown no improvement, and the number of bike taxis in operation has increased significantly.

The Jamaica Observer West was told that teachers and other staff members have suffered losses at the hands of bike taxi operators who have reportedly slammed motorcycles into their vehicles.

Last term, a student was mowed down by a motorcycle was she awaited public transportation in front of a supermarket in the town to take her home. The driver was reportedly performing stunts on the main road when the incident occurred.


The 14-year-old student suffered severe head injuries, a spinal cord injury, fractured ribs, punctured lungs, and broken hands and feet. She is crippled, bed-ridden, and is no longer able to attend school.

The accused biker, meanwhile, was reportedly charged for driving a motorcycle without the necessary documentation, paid his fine and is now back on the streets.

“She is not able to speak. A doctor is offering physiotherapy, but to be honest, it doesn't look favourable based on her current condition. She is not able to sit up on her own or anything,” disclosed Latoya Flemming, the school's dean of discipline.

And to add insult to injury, the teenager's family lost their house in a fire three months after the tragic incident.
The school has since embarked on fund-raising activities to assist.

“The law does not allow for much because, as it is now, justice can only be served if the parents move towards taking out a civil suit against the driver of the bike and without that, then there is nothing much that can be done legally as it relates to seeking justice or compensation, “James said as he bemoaned the plight of the teenager.


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