'Illegal' motorbikes issue raises ire in Barkers

Two bikers arrested

 

Billy Ebanks has been riding his dirt bike in West Bay’s Barkers park for many years, but on Sunday he was told by police that he could no longer ride there.  

Mr. Ebanks and a friend had been riding around private land at Barkers when they were approached by a Royal Cayman Islands Police officer, who later arrested them.  

“This officer proceeded to tell my husband and his friend that they were riding on a main road and that he was going to summons them to make an appearance in court due to the fact that they were riding illegally,” said Candice Thompson-Ebanks, who objected to what she felt was “harassment” by the officer.  

“I notified the officer … that they were on a private, ungazetted road, so they were fine to be riding out there.”  

The two men were arrested on suspicion of driving without a license, driving without insurance and failing to give details to a police officer.  

The Ebanks family acknowledges that the bikes they used on Sunday are not “street legal,” meaning they are not licensed or insured for use on the roads. However, they had always maintained the understanding that if the land was private and not a gazetted road – an official public right of way – their bikes could be used. In addition, Mrs. Thompson-Ebanks noted that the dirt bikes were hauled to the Barkers location on a trailer.  

The arrests come in the wake of the Grand Cayman community’s general displeasure, expressed to police in public meetings over the last two months, about the improper, annoying and dangerous use of motorbikes that are not licensed for use on the roads.  

In both North Side and East End districts, residents told police officers at public meetings that problems with loud, dangerous motorcycles – some of which appeared to have been operating without license plates or registration – were affecting quality of life and in some cases interfering with public enjoyment of local beaches. North Side MLA Ezzard Miller said his constituents have been reporting these matters to local police for months, with apparently little effect.  

“These bikes are illegal,” Mr. Miller told police Chief Inspector Brad Ebanks and other police officers attending the North Side district meeting Tuesday night. “They cannot be licensed and you can’t get insurance for them. How can police allow them on the road?”  

Mrs. Thompson-Ebanks said she is aware of many problems with “illegal” motorbikes being operated in West Bay as well, but she said her husband’s case is not what local residents were complaining about to police.  

“Billy has always encouraged the youths that would ride with him to not ride on the main roads, wear their protective gear when they would ride, and practice general safety and common sense,” she said. “He has tried to encourage the youths that there are so much more productive things to do than to get into the gang violence that is wreaking havoc on our little district.” 

Police Superintendent Adrian Seales said the key issues in the Barkers case are whether the motorbikes were being operated on private land and whether they had the permission of the landowners – [*]according to the Ebanks family, in this case the property is owned by the Dart group of companies – to operate the bikes there.  

“People can ride on [unlicensed] motorbikes or go-karts, but on private land,” Mr. Seales said. “In order to get to that private land, the bikes either need to be [put on a trailer] or driven on the back of a truck. 

“I don’t know the circumstances of this particular case, but it would largely have to be left up to the discretion of the investigating officer. If the road is a public road, then unlicensed vehicles cannot be operated on it.”  

Mrs. Thompson-Ebanks said her family has written to the Dart group of companies, asking them for permission to use the Barkers area for the Sunday motorbike rides. A representative of the Dart group said Wednesday that they were unaware of any such request at the time. 

[*] Editor’s Note: Story changed to reflect attribution on the ownership of the land to the Ebanks family.

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Billy Ebanks, on his dirt bike, with wife Candice Thompson-Ebanks in West Bay on Wednesday. – Photo: Brent Fuller
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