In what may end up being a test case for the Cayman courts, a dirt bike rider has been arrested and charged with a number of traffic offenses. [*]
The issue of motorbike safety has garnered significant media attention since a Nov. 27 incident where dozens of motorcycle and dirt bike riders took part in the “ride of the century,” or ROC, that day and were observed by numerous spectators speeding, driving in the opposite lanes of traffic, “popping wheelies” and engaging in what Police Commissioner Derek Byrne described as “dangerous and disturbing” behavior.
Video footage of the incident was captured and posted on social media sites in the days following the event, depicting a number of motorcycle riders – some with bikes which appeared to be street legal and some that were clearly not – engaging in the same types of behavior.
On Thursday, police announced that a 27-year-old male from West Bay district, had been charged for prosecution in traffic court. That man, who has not yet appeared in court, will be prosecuted for reckless driving, as well as driving without insurance, expired registration and driving without a registration sticker.
“The charges arise from his riding of a dirt bike on public roads,” a police statement read. Police later clarified that the charges arose from an earlier dirt bike riding incident and not the one that occurred on Nov. 27. [*]
Dangerous or reckless driving is defined in the Traffic Law as operating a vehicle on a road “dangerously or recklessly, or at speed or in a manner or in a condition which is dangerous to the public.”
On summary conviction, the offense carries a possible prison sentence of one year, a fine of $1,000 or both. Upon conviction, offenders could also lose their licenses for a year or more, as the court determines. In a conviction following indictment, the prison sentence can be up to two years with a $3,000 fine.
The “ride of the century” incident in November has been the subject of much discussion since late November, with police officials and some members of the public lamenting the lack of enforcement against what they view as antisocial behaviors. Other individuals, meanwhile, lamented the fact that the young men involved in the ride have nowhere else to ride their vehicles.
Estimates put the number of vehicles involved in the “ride of the century” group anywhere from 40 to 100 motorbikes and ATVs.
The Sunday “ride” drew sharp criticism from Keith Keller, the president of the Cayman Islands Motorcycle Riders Association, who said the event was not sanctioned by his group and that the association did not support the kinds of activities displayed by the bikers on that afternoon.
“It was pure chaos,” Mr. Keller said. “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 [motorcycle riders] association.”
At one stage, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service helicopter was spotted above the group of motorbike riders.
Stopping the reckless and dangerous use of off-street racing motorbikes on public roads has been identified by Commissioner Byrne as one of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service’s top priorities.
“It’s disturbing to see what’s going on on our public roads on a Sunday afternoon,” Mr. Byrne said, referring to numerous reports he said he personally received about the Nov. 27 ride.
The police may not have an easy task in doing so. There have been some concerns raised privately to the RCIPS about the police service’s legal ability to simply seize off-road bikes from their owners. Mr. Byrne said the RCIPS Traffic Unit was looking at the matter and that the police believed they have the proper legislation in place.
Some illegal bikes that were seized in various police operations earlier this year ended up being stolen from behind the George Town Police Station. Additional security measures have since been taken to prevent similar thefts from occurring, police said.
[*] Editor’s note: Story changed from the original to reflect the fact that traffic charges stem from an earlier dirt bike riding incident and not the one that occurred Sunday, Nov. 27.