Dozens of riders thundering down Cayman roads Sunday afternoon on motorcycles, dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles prompted several calls from the public to police.
The bikers spent most of the afternoon cruising around from West Bay to Bodden Town on an array of vehicles, some of which were street legal and some which were obviously not. Numerous drivers and passersby spotted the motorbikes, many “popping wheelies,” weaving into the opposite lane of traffic, running red lights and speeding as they traversed Grand Cayman.
Estimates put the number of vehicles involved in the traveling group anywhere from 40 to 100 motorbikes and ATVs.
The bikers were participating in an annual event known as the ROC or the “Ride of the Century” – an international event that basically involves motorbike riders driving 100 miles.
However, Keith Keller, president of the Cayman Islands Motorcycle Riders Association, clarified Monday that Sunday’s “ride” event on Grand Cayman was not sanctioned by his group and that the association did not support the kinds of activities displayed by the bikers Sunday afternoon. Sunday’s event was the fourth time the ROC has been held in Cayman.
“It was pure chaos,” Mr. Keller said. “It’s gotten completely out of control.”
Mr. Keller, who was riding his motorcycle Sunday afternoon with a small group of friends, said he encountered the dirt bike riders on the road as well.
“These guys, they had no helmets, they were on the wrong side of the road passing cars, one of them almost clipped me on my bike,” he said. “It’s just ridiculous and it has nothing to do with the [bike riders] association.”
At one stage, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service helicopter was spotted above the group of motorbike riders Sunday afternoon.
A police spokesperson said Monday that the RCIPS was well aware of what had occurred, and the issue of motorbikes – particularly dirt bikes being operated illegally on local roads – is one officers have struggled with in recent years.
The department’s two senior Caymanian police officers, Deputy Commissioners [*] Kurt Walton and Anthony Ennis, called earlier this year for a ban on dirt bike importation in Cayman.
“Every single day we’re getting complaints about these bikes on the road,” Mr. Walton said in April. “Why are we continuing to let these motorbikes into the country?”
The police have two distinct problems with motorbikes. The first is with street-legal bikes that are used on roads, particularly late at night, which elicit many complaints from Grand Cayman residents about disturbing the peace. Those were not the motorbikes the police referred to in suggesting the ban.
The second issue occurs with vehicles that cannot be licensed or insured, no matter their state of repair. If police stop one of these motorbikes, they can be seized and impounded, according to Mr. Walton.
Another difficulty for police is in determining who is a legal bike operator and who is illegally using the road. Once a determination is made that the motorbike is being operated illegally, police must decide whether to give chase. Police have generally been wary of pursuit since a 2013 Grand Court judgment by former Justice Alex Henderson in relation to a 2008 police chase along West Bay Road that ended in the deaths of two men in the car that was being pursued. That ruling essentially stated that the police pursuit contributed to the deaths of two men who were passengers in the vehicle.
Customs Collector Charles Clifford, whose department would be responsible for enforcing such an import ban, has said that it is up to Cabinet and the Legislative Assembly to make such an amendment to the Customs Law. He said the collector would not have sole discretion to decide to ban importation of dirt bikes.
[*] Editor’s note: Corrects the rank of the two senior police officers.