Commercial motorcycle riders, popularly known as ‘okada’ riders, are having a field day in the national capital, Accra where heavy vehicular traffic is common. The traffic starts right from the morning, normally referred to as the ‘rush hour’ when most commuters leave home to transact their businesses. It is the same from 5 p.m. when most commuters are returning home after a hard day’s work.
The situation has become so intense that most commuters, who hitherto dreaded to use okada as a means of transport, have resorted to its use.
Now, commuters pick okada from one bus stop to another just to avoid the heavy traffic and then continue via public vehicles to their destination.
While pedestrians are always looking forward to traffic lights turning red, drivers and passengers are always looking for the green light. The heat in trotro vehicles alone makes you want to encourage the driver to jump the red traffic light but for fear of getting caught and well the policeman taking a bribe from you for personal benefits in the name of punishment.
And the desire to actually be a citizen and not a spectator, you endure respecting the law.
As for okada riders including all motorists on the road, are they bound by any road regulations including stopping for pedestrians to cross when the traffic light is red?
We all hate traffic and we like to travel as fast as possible to get to our various destinations. And one of the horrors of Accra is the unbearable traffic people are faced with in their daily routine lives. But is okada the right way to go?
Okada is using motorbikes to transport both people and goods from one place to another for commercial purposes. And because okada is actually faster to commute, they charge more money than trotro vehicles do. Indeed, it is fast, but is it a safe means to travel?
There have been many reported cases of individuals falling prey to accidents on okada travels. Some of these accidents have resulted in the deaths of some people.
I have personally seen an okada bike thrust under a vehicle that was in traffic on the Kasoa highway because the okada rider wanted to meander his way through the heavy packed traffic. Assuming this vehicle was moving, both the rider and the passenger on the okada could have died instantly but even at this, the passenger sustained varying degrees of injuries. There have also been some reported instances of some people getting robbed by some of these okada riders.
Now, okada riding may be the source of income to many people but should we allow it to kill people before we consider shutting it down or at least regulating their activities? Motor accidents are even far more precarious than car accidents and the worst thing is to see an okada passenger without a helmet.
It is even debatable whether or not all okada riders are Ghanaians. These riders are always blatantly flouting traffic regulations here. When the traffic light is red which is the turn of pedestrians to cross the road, okada riders will be honking their bells on them because for them (okada riders), the traffic light is there just for fun.
One mistake and an okada driver will knock you down. Many people have clashed with these riders while crossing the road because the riders don’t stop even when the traffic light has turned red.
Okada riding has been in the capital region of Ghana, Accra for some years now and it is gradually gaining roots in the system but are they regulated by any rules? Are they supposed to abide by the general road regulations in Ghana or do they need special attention? Are they supposed to get registered with any state agency to be formalized into the system or anyone with a motorbike can operate okada?
The roads are there not for vehicles alone but for pedestrians as well. There are road regulations binding all road users from pedestrians to drivers. Why should some road users flout these regulations to the detriment of others and go unpunished? Even pavements or footpaths on the sides of roads that are made primarily for pedestrians are also taken over by some of these motor riders.
The law enforcement agencies must sit up to avoid some of these occurrences. But seeing a police officer on a motorbike clearly disrespect traffic made me wonder if some of them still have the moral right to arrest traffic regulations offenders. It is a disgrace to this country that we can’t seem to enforce nor obey our own laws. At least, enforcing the laws will ensure some kind of benignancy in our societies.
Citizens, we also have a responsibility to obey the laws of this country. If we really want to have a steady progress as we require of our leaders to ensure, then we can’t renege on our oars to playing our roles as well.
The onus rests on all of us to ensure that posterity finds this country in a better state if not, they will judge us harshly. Our future is in our own hands.