Irrespective of the fact that the government of Sierra Leone highly recognizes the valuable contributions of the bike riders to the transport sector and towards the creation of employment for young people, it equally recognizes the informal nature of their operations and is therefore creating a space for the formalization of bike riding for the benefit of the riders and the general public as a whole. Part of the process of creating such a space is by putting in place guidelines which will help to regulate the conduct of the bike riders and also protect them from getting in conflict with the law while at the same time ensuring their safety and giving them recognition in society. In January 2015, at a joint meeting with the bike riders’ union executives and the government, the following were put together as ‘CODE OF CONDUCT FOR OKADA OPERATIONS IN SIERRA LEONE’:
1. OBSERVANCE OF PROHIBITED AREAS: It was agreed by all that all commercial bike operations are banned within the Central Business District (CBD) of Freetown and prohibited areas. It is therefore an offence for any commercial bike rider to ply prohibited areas and streets of the CBD. The following streets were identified as prohibited streets: Kissy Road, Fourah Bay Road (from Savage Square to Eastern Police), Sani Abecha Street, Siaka Steven Street, Sanders Street, Goderich Street, Macauley Street, Krootown Road, Pademba Road, Circular Road, Campbell Street, Adelaide Street, Savage Street and Rokel Street.
2. AGREED ROUTES: It was agreed that Mountain Court should be used as a one way up to the mosque at Third Street onto Hill Side Road. It was as well agreed that all commercial bikes operating in the East end of Freetown should terminate at Upgun Jenner Wright Road. However, riders can enter Kissy Road from Upgun Roundabout up to Dan Street and then turn left onto Upper Dan Street and navigate their way onto the Mosque at Mountain Curt.
3. RETURNING TO THE EAST END: I was agreed that commercial bikes returning to the East end from Sackville Street and the Hill Side Bye-Pass road are allowed to use Upper Savage Square to Fourah Bay Road and then make their way to Cline Town. Commercial bikes can also use the following routes; Canton Street, Kennedy Street, Emmanuel Street and Ross Road. They are however not allowed to make a left turn to Fourah Road heading to Eastern Police. All commercial bikes operating in the West end of Freetown should terminate at Lumbly Safecon. Commercial bikes operating at Wilberforce (Botton mango) and Spur Loop, should serve those communities only.
The following were also agreed upon as basic rules to be strictly observed by all commercial bike riders;
a. That no commercial bike should enter Wilkinson Road from Sir Samuel Lewis Road, Murray Town junction and Congo town road.
b. That bike riders at the Dwarzark junction should serve the Dwarzark community only
c. Bike riders at Kingtom Bridge should serve the Kingtom community only
d. Bikes operating at Cline Town should serve the Kanikay Community only
e. Bikes operating at Murray Town must not use the Wilkinson road but should serve the Murray Town and Aberdeen communities.
Speaking to the media unit of the Sierra Leone police, AYV News Paper noted with greatest dismay that the police and other government ministries are not happy with the way and manner in which the bike riders are flouting the codes of conducts they themselves put together. The deputy head of the media unit of the Sierra Leone Police told this medium that the bike riders are very lawless and as such creating serious problems for the ordinary citizens of the nation. He went on to say that the police are more than ever prepared to track down lawlessness amongst bike riders in the city of Freetown. He furthered that they have got full support from the Internal Affairs ministry and other line ministries to track down on lawlessness amongst bike riders.
Responding to allegations of the lawlessness of the bike riders, the Public Relations Officer of the Bike Riders Union told this medium that some of their members are indeed lawless but however stressed that as a responsible union, they have always been able to manage lawlessness in the union.
Alusine Dumbuya told AYV news that the code of conduct that the police is now making so much noise about was indeed put together in consultation with their union but it implementation totally excluded their union; a situation he described as unfortunate. The Public Relations Officer was quick to state that their president was called to a closed door meeting on the 19th of May 2016 in which he was forced to sign a document for the implementation of the code of conducts. Alusine went on to say that they are getting serious pressure from their membership regarding the way forward on the band recently imposed by the police. He said that their only option at the moment is to see how best they can negotiate with the Internal Affairs Ministry and other stakeholders involved to reverse the decision they have taken as it is seriously affecting their membership. He ended by saying that if all efforts in letting the decision taken to be reversed fail, they will be left with no option but to park their bikes and ask the president to provide jobs for them.
Viewing the opinions of some citizens on the band of the bike riders from using the CBD, majority told this medium that they are very much happy with the decision taken by the police as they are now safe from accident and theft cases. Few however told this medium that the band has negatively affected them as they are finding it very difficult to run their businesses effectively without the help of the bike riders. A senior citizen who begged not to be named referred to the Bike Riders as ‘THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY’.