Bike taxis

Motorcycle operators profiting from road-related congestion in Kingston

BY RACQUEL PORTER
Observer staff reporter
porterr@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, September 13, 2018

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POLICE in the Corporate Area now have another problem to deal with — bike taxis.

The illegal practice of transporting commuters on the back on motorcycles has been flourishing in the western end of the island despite attempts by the police to clamp down on the trade, especially in light of frequent crashes, some fatal.

The capital city, Kingston, served by the State-owned Jamaica Urban Transit Company, franchise operators and route taxis was never seen as an area in which 'bike taxis' could earn a living. However, this week's closure of Portia Simpson Miller (PSM) Square, formerly Three Miles, to facilitate major road upgrading in that area, has caused nightmarish traffic in the city, and very long wait for commuters at bus stops, but some bikers have described it as a “dream come true”.

They have been capitalising on the situation in order to make a living for themselves by offering a shuttle service from Molynes Road to Half-Way-Tree in St Andrew at a cost of $150. The cost of the ride can go up, depending on the destination of the commuter.

“One and ready [to] Half-Way-Tree,” two bikers shouted as they sought passengers yesterday.

Dwayne Turner, who was running late for work, stepped away from the bus stop towards Dave Brown's motor bike, which would take him to Half-Way-Tree within minutes.

Brown told the Jamaica Observer that he has been operating his Yeng Yeng motor bike as a taxi since Monday, describing the venture as feasible.

“Quick and fast, less than three (hours),” was how Brown described the time period in which it took him to make $3,500.

The self-employed Waterhouse resident said he had been rearing animals up to last week.

At this time, Kirk Walton, who had been seen heading to Half-Way-Tree with a pillion, returned. He told the Observer that when news broke that the busy PSM intersection would be closed he knew it would put a dent in his earnings as a bus operator on the Number 82 route, and so he resorted to his motorcycle.

“… From last week mi start transport people on my bike enuh; people all a call me,” Walton said, adding that he will now have to print business cards for commuters who may want his service. “Anything at all dem can call me, and I will do the work,” he added.

The Kingston resident disclosed that between 6:00 am and 9:00 am yesterday he made $5,000 with his bike taxi.

Another happy bike taxi operator is Keno Sutherland, who said the congestion on the Corporate Area streets was good news for him as he was at home “just sitting down”.

“This is actually creating employment for me, and I love it,” Sutherland said, as he sat on his bike awaiting his next passenger yesterday.

While some commuters eagerly hopped onto the bikes others waited patiently for their buses and route taxis.

Janessa Guy, who was late for work yesterday, said: “I'll past on that.” She was referring to the Yeng Yeng bikes being used to transport commuters. “Even before this I wasn't a fan of bikes, I rather be late,” Guy said.

Commuter Jovan Pinnock, however, wished the bike taxis were going to Papine, saying he had been waiting for more than two hours to get on a bus.

Other frustrated commuters, meanwhile, made their journey on foot through several sections of the Corporate Area.

Meanwhile, Jamaica House reported last night that Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday met with senior management of the National Works Agency (NWA), the police, and China Harbour Engineering Company to discuss solutions to the current traffic challenges due to major roadworks taking place across the Corporate Area.

Holness, a Jamaica House release said, instructed that more must be done to inform the public of traffic changes He als instructed them to employ more efficient management of traffic and diversions.

The NWA, it said, was instructed to give specific designated routes for the public, especially for the alternate route for the Three Miles, Hagley Park and Constant Spring areas.

The prime minister also underscored the need for the NWA to move immediately to improve the signage along the designated routes, consequent on the closure of the Three Miles intersection.

He said, too, that the police must ensure adequate security presence is maintained on the designated routes in order to reduce the likelihood of further inconvenience to the travelling public.

The NWA noted that, with the support of the police, they will continue to make adjustments to the traffic flow to assist in reducing travel time, adding that several unforeseen incidents had contributed to significant build-up over the last two days.

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