Motorbike problem ‘subsides,’ not over

A police crackdown on recklessly driven motorbikes around Grand Cayman is having some effect, with 11 bikes seized and 10 arrests made since December, Police Commissioner Derek Byrne said Friday.

However, Commissioner Byrne noted, the enforcement effort will require continuing community support, as well as resource-intensive police operations to solve the problem.

“Do I think there’s only 11 bikes on the island? Are there more dirt bikes out there? Yes, there are,” Mr. Byrne said.

The bikes seized by police were all either unregistered or unlicensed, or were being operated in a reckless or unsafe manner on public roads.

Police traffic officers have focused on illegal or dangerously driven motorbikes following public outcry over the late November “ride of the century” on Grand Cayman. In that incident, dozens of illegal motorbikes took to the streets in an all-day ride, disobeying traffic laws and riding recklessly.

Mr. Byrne said police enforcement strategies against the illegal motorbikes have to balance risk for both the general public and police officers.

“We can’t go out and use excessive force to stop these bikes,” he said, adding that the RCIPS is using its helicopter in many instances to track the illegal bike operators.

The commissioner also noted that police are working with the community to develop alternate sites for motorbike riders to use.

“I’m aware of at least two proposals to build a dirt bike track to provide a safe environment … for people to carry out this activity,” Mr. Byrne said. “It’s definitely not an activity for our public roads.”

According to RCIPS Traffic Unit Inspector Ian Yearwood, the enforcement focus for police is now less on “dirt bikes” – some of which may be street legal – and more on motorcycles of any type that are not registered, as well as drivers who blow through stop lights, “pop wheelies” or veer into opposite lanes of traffic.

Any vehicle that is unregistered or unlicensed may be seized by police, Mr. Yearwood said. If vehicle owners can later prove the vehicle is registered and licensed, they can get it back, he said.

During police operations last month Mr. Yearwood noted that officers spoke with some individuals who had hitched their motorbikes to trailers and were taking them to the “marl pit” in George Town for some off-roading. Inspector Yearwood said police have no problem with that. As long as the vehicles are operated on private land with the permission of the land owner, they don’t have to be registered for use on the public roads.

Police also spoke to parents of the motorbike riders and discussed the possibility of opening some sort of public space off-road where bike riders can use their unregistered vehicles.

“That’s something I would personally get myself involved in,” Mr. Yearwood said.

“I drive a motorbike myself. I do not want to stop motorbike riders. We just don’t want the reckless and dangerous riding on the streets.”