MONROVIA, Montserrado – The Liberia National Police’s recent collection of restrictions on tricycles popularly known as ‘kehkeh’ may not have gone well with the Liberia Tricycle and Motorcycle Association and the riding public.
The latest regulations instituted by the police on October 12 restrict the tricycles from plying the Broad Street-Tubman Boulevard routes.
Police Spokesperson Sam Collins told The Bush Chicken that the restrictions were instituted due to the influx of tricycles in central Monrovia, which he says have caused traffic congestion.
Collins said the LNP’s Division of Public Safety, with instructions from Inspector General Gregory Coleman, came to a decision on the matter.
He noted that under the new regulations, tricycles are not allowed to ply Broad Street, cross the University of Liberia and proceed to the Tubman Boulevard.
“These restrictions are intended to lessen the high level of traffic congestion in Central Monrovia,” Collins pointed out.
He explained that tricycle operators in Central Monrovia were infringing on the rights of others and causing traffic congestion in the city center. Collins, however, failed to state how the tricycles are in breach of the rights of others.
The restrictions according to Collins are not intended to strangulate tricycle operators and owners, noting, “They are taxpayers but public safety in such cases matters most.”
Collins added that the tricycle operators have been removed from their parking on Carey Street behind the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, and relocated to Mechlin Street.
In addition, Collins said that it is risky for these tricycles to ride on some of the major streets of Monrovia, stressing, “Tricycle operators in Paynesville are also not allowed to cross the ELWA junction.”
He said that there are plans by the LNP to also put restrictions on the subcompact cars now using major routes in Monrovia.
Collins indicated that these subcompact cars pose a great deal of risk to both passengers and operators when approaching heavy vehicles.
Collins who struggled to provide answers regarding a query about awareness on the tricycles’ restrictions, said, “When the LNP runs a radio announcement and tricycle operators do not listen, the LNP cannot be held responsible.”
But the union that represents tricycle drivers and owners disagrees with Collins’ statement that awareness was done prior to the restrictions being enforced.
Kollie Z. Koiyan, president of the Liberia Tricycle and Motorcycle Association, said he was informed a day to the enforcement by Mikey Gray, the deputy police commissioner for public safety.
“There was no prior notice to the association before the restrictions took effect,” Koiyan noted.
Koiyan expressed frustration over the government’s decision to restrict tricycles and also remove them from Carey Street. He termed the LNP conclusion that tricycles are causing traffic congestion in center Monrovia as lazy.
“It is unfortunate that the LNP is yet to provide the association members with any [terminal point] since we were asked to leave Carey Street,” he said.
Koiyan argued that the restrictions pose a serious challenge to the government’s quest for poverty reduction in the country. He pointed out that “most of the operators of these tricycles are self-employed.”
According to Koiyan, the restrictions are having serious economic impact on the association members and noted, “They are struggling to make their daily earnings. The restrictions are intended to put the association members out of business.”
He explained that a brand new tricycle is purchased at US$3,500 and members pay US$150 to the Ministry of Transport to register their vehicles and obtain a license plate.
Koiyan further said tricycle owners also pay US$130 for insurance while the drivers pay US$35 for a license.
Mamayan M. Kromah, a social worker visiting Monrovia from Nimba to see her children, told The Bush Chicken that she was shocked to board a tricycle from Waterside and then to be taken to the corner of Carey and Newport Streets.
“I am now constrained to hire the tricycle to take me to my residence because of the distance,” Kromah said.
She did not agree with the restrictions on tricycles because according to her, there had always been traffic congestion at the intersection of Carey and Mechlin streets.
She said awareness should have been made to inform the public about the restrictions because passengers commuting on tricycles are confused by the new restrictions.
Fatu B. Sayon, a student at AME Zion University, said the restrictions will become an inconvenience for university students commuting between Carey, Benson, Camp Johnson Road, and Capitol Hill.
Sayon noted that commuting via tricycles is the easiest way of reaching the university because taxi drivers do not drive between her destinations.
In fact, it is virtually impossible to ride a taxi from one part of Central Monrovia to another, as drivers will refuse to make the trip. One would have to charter a taxi, incurring significant costs.
Isaac Chea, a tricycle driver, expressed disappointment and said that due to the restrictions, he is unable to make his daily earning of L$2,500 (US$25.25).
Chea who has been in the business for one year noted that traffic congestion was in Monrovia before the importation of tricycles into the country. Chea says he thinks traffic congestion in central Monrovia is caused by bad roads and not tricycles.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah