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Tide against commercial motorcyclists, tricyclists

Tide against commercial motorcyclists, tricyclists

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With the arrest of no fewer than 150 commercial motorcyclists, popularly known as Okada riders, last week, the Lagos State Government may have reaffirmed its commitment to restricting their activities to last-mile shuttles, ADEYINKA ADERIBIGBE writes

Alhassan Ahmed, a salesman, was running out of time for a business meeting  in  Ota, Ogun State.

It was about 1pm, when he left his office at Ikeja, Lagos. He had to make it to Ota by 3pm. He stood by the roadside, contemplating the fastest route out of the traffic bedlam at Ikeja, when he saw the Gokada rider, a commercial e-hail motorcycle operator, in black with green Gokada helmet.

He flagged him down, and negotiated the trip. He agreed to the N1,200 demanded by the rider, mounted the bike and donned the helmet, which Gokada said is certified to the American Department of Transportation (DOT) standard. Within one and half hours, he was at the front desk of the company where he had the meeting. He was a bit ruffled, but quite on time.

Since that experience, Ahmed said he had “become addicted to Gokada”.

He added: “Except on Sundays, I don’t see the need to go out with my car again. I move around the city, on a motorcycle. It is fast and affordable for anyone who does not want to spend eternity in the perennial traffic that has made Lagos a pain in the neck for many commuters.”

Ahmed’s testimony is one of the thousands, who have turned to this two-wheeler alternative to beat the gridlock, which has become a permanent feature of movement around the metropolis.

Also, a social media networker, who wanted to be known as Yewande, said she had been taking Gokada everyday from Maryland, where she lives, to her Broad Street office, on Lagos Island. According to her, the risk associated with riding such a very long distance pales into insignificance when you imagine the alternative of spending a minimum of three to five hours in buses or a taxi. “I have simply stopped thinking of the risk. I just hop on it because it offers me the quickest option of reaching my destination, though it costs more,” she stated.

In Lagos, two brands – Gokada and Maxokada – have become ubiquitous, seizing the space from local operators, who have almost been snuffed out of the business by security operatives.

Andrew, who works in a media house at Apapa, said he alternates between Gokada and Maxokada daily in and out of Apapa’s perennial traffic gridlock. His dream is to buy a power bike, like some of his colleagues.

Maxokada, which began operation in August 2015, said it has made over 300,000 kilometres and carried no fewer than 500 passengers.

Same milestones were reeled out recently by Gokada, which celebrated its first year on Lagos roads last month. Such was the successes recorded by these operators that Gokada, for instance, is thinking of building a world- class testing and training centre in the state.

The emergence of these operators, who operate an app supported hailing system has, undoubtedly, created a new paradigm in the state’s transportation architecture.

Commuters have had to cope with the emergence of a new set of motor cycle operators, who are not only organised in their approach to the business, but are also deploying technology and higher-capacity engines to drive their commercial operations.

Unlike the regular motorcycle operators, who use low-capacity motorcycles for commercial operations, and have been forced out of business by the government, which have been impounding their motor cycles since 2012, when it came up with its traffic law, these new operators are armed with high-capacity engines, usually from 200cc and above, which were approved by the Lagos State Traffic Law 2012, as permissible on its roads.

Armed with the right kind of machine, the operators have claimed that they could go anywhere unmolested by the law enforcement agencies.

The attraction that kept them in business remains capacity to maneuvre  traffic gridlock, thereby getting their patrons to their destination faster than the vehicular mode.

While Gokada on its website boasted it could get riders to any destination 50 per cent quicker than any closest road rival, its rival, Maxokada promises a 70 per cent reduction in travel time on safe, and affordable motor cycle, known as Maxgo. “Gokada claims it travels 26 km/h inside traffic, while cars in Lagos traffic, travel at an average of 13 kilometre/hr.

It also insisted that not only are its riders trained in defensive driving, they must pass driving as well as psychometric test before being allowed on the road.

For Maxokada, besides the Maxgo, for passenger movement, it has introduced a delivery service known as Max Now, which makes moving goods, especially parcels, much easier and more affordable.

Life saving

Before the government took the drastic decision to restrict motor cycle operation, it had almost over run vehicular movement in the state.

Though transportation and logistics experts are wont to agree that motor cycle, better known as para-transportation, is unknown to organise transportation system and they would not want it encouraged in Lagos, the first decade of the millennium almost pushed motor cycle operation to the point of obsession, as both state and the local governments officials and other top politicians, are giving motor cycles as empowerment items to young political party faithful who populate its ranks.

The result was an alarming increase in accident rate across the state. Hospitals’ emergency sections, surgical and orthopedic wards are usually filled to the brim with victims of inexperienced riders, jumping to frightening proportion.

With the Transportation Law 2012 in place, the government restrained from the banning of comercial motorcycle operations, as in Rivers and Delta states, but restricted them from plying major roads, highways and bridges. Eleven highways, 45 bridges and 502 roads were out of bound for them and any operator found on these restricted areas would have their motor cycle impounded with no benefit of retrieval. The law also extends to tricycle operations.

Operators of commercial motor cycles and tricycles, are expected to operate only the last mile, otherwise known as the inner city roads.

According to the government, the enforcement of the law brought down the rate of motorcycle related accident by as much as 70 per cent, and stopped its ugly underbelly of being used as getaway vehicle by armed robbers and other criminally-minded deviants.

Instilling decorum

That was why stakeholders agreed that though Gokada and Maxokada investors may have complied with the engine specification, and developed a more organised system to run motorcycle transit service, the government is right in bringing back the need to comply with the last-mile regulation. Non- compliance with regulations, according to Safety Without Borders founder, Mr. Patrick Adenusi, could only be a recipe for disaster and a return to the state’s immediate ugly past where accident was the order of the day.

He sided with Egbeyemi, for impounding 115 comercial motorcyclists last week.

Like Egbeyemi, Adenusi believed operating on restricted routes, including the one-way around Ikeja, Ojota, and Maryland would further excercebate the traffic crisis to which the state has sunk.

Egbeyemi, however, disclosed that  of the 115 in its fleet, only 22 were branded Gokada and Maxokada.

Egbeyemi also threw another controversy into the mix. While Gokada and Maxokada backers said they are engaged in legal businesses, Egbeyemi differed, describing their operations as illegal. He wondered why they should be in business without valid documents.

The chairman reiterated that in accordance with the law, no commercial motorcycle operator is allowed to operate on the restricted routes, including highways and bridges across the state.

Egbeyemi also enjoined the public to desist from patronising commercial motorcyclists on restricted routes as passengers are liable for prosecutions.

“It was an eye-sore seeing operators of these newly branded commercial motorcycles (Gokada/Maxokada) competing for right of way with motorists on highways and bridges across the state,” he  said.

One of the arrested Gokada riders, Francis Ayeni, who claimed to pay N3000 daily to the firm, said they were not aware of any documentation with the government.

Another arrested rider, Mr. Adebayo Adeniran, confirmed that he collected one of the newly branded commercial motorcycles Maxokada on hire purchase after presenting a guarantor.

An indication that commercial motor cycle system has no place in the state’s transportation architecture is the fact that commercial motorcycle operation has no place in the state’s transportation master plan. The transportation policy being put together is silent on comercial motor cycle operation.

An expert, Dr Tajudeen Bawa’Allah, insists that commercial motor cyclist has no place in the state’s transportation policy.

He saidcommercial motor cycle operation is powered by poverty and unemployment, adding that though commercial motor cycle business remains the lowest end of the transportation business, it remains illegal and unacceptable as a means of transportation in a state aiming to operate a smart economy.

“Without doubt, the government has set the boundary beyond which no operator in the transportation industry should operate,” Bawa’Allah stated.

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