Police-biker cooperation ‘hasn’t worked in longer term’

MLAs, store owner eye race track in East End

From left, Commissioner of Police Derek Byrne, Superintendent Robbie Graham and Bodden Town District Commander Winsome Prendergast listen to an attendee at the police district meeting Bodden Town Tuesday night. - PHOTO: BRENT FULLER

It seems Cayman Islands motorbike enthusiasts do not want to hang out with the police during their rides.

Newlands MLA Alva Suckoo noted that a plan hatched late last year to have community police officers “supervise” bikers during rides at various locations around Grand Cayman “worked in the short term, but hasn’t worked in the longer term.”

“Now they’re back on the road,” Mr. Suckoo told a group of about 40 Bodden Town residents during a public meeting Tuesday night at the James M. Bodden Civic Centre.

The long-standing issue with the motorbikes came to the fore in late 2016 and again in late 2017 when large groups of bikers rode around Grand Cayman, popping wheelies, swerving in and out of traffic, and disrupting other drivers on the road. Some of the vehicles used in the “ride of the century” events were road legal and some were not.

Police Commissioner Derek Byrne said officers will continue to pursue the “rogue element” in the biker crowd that needs to be dealt with, but that he does not want to alienate the other, larger group of bikers that wishes to follow the law and ride legally.

“As usual, and as the case with most issues in Cayman, the good are suffering from the bad,” said Foster’s Food Fair IGA Managing Director Woody Foster, who spoke to the Cayman Compass about the issue on Wednesday. Mr. Foster, along with Mr. Suckoo and George Town Central MLA Kenneth Bryan, have been working on a plan to establish a race track – not only for motorbikers, but for car racing as well in East End. [*]

A 60-acre plot of land government owns near a quarry in that area has been identified and could be used for track purposes. Mr. Foster said he is assisting the MLAs and bikers with obtaining some legal assistance on setting up an association for local motorbike riders, which could then help organize the track operations.

Several Bodden Town residents who attended Wednesday’s public meeting with the police complained of unlicensed motorbikes driving around neighborhood streets, particularly at the weekend. Bodden Town Police Station commander Winsome Prendergast said it was an issue police in the eastern districts were continuing to focus on.

Mr. Foster said he hoped government would move on the land issue in the near future.

“I, like the rest of society, once thought that [the bikers] should all be put in jail,” Mr. Foster said. “But after speaking to one of the bikers, I came to a conclusion … we’re only seeing the negative side.”

Mr. Suckoo said Wednesday that government needs to “follow-up on its commitment” to provide some funding to get the track started – approximately $200,000 was identified – but he said nothing has been placed in the 2018/19 budget plan for that effort.

“We’re not going to get private sector involvement [in a race track] until government does something,” Mr. Suckoo said, adding that he thought a proper venue could also be used for other public events such as concerts or parties and might eventually become self-sustaining.

“We have a construction plan that we’ve drawn up. Government just needs to follow-up on its commitment for this,” he said.

 

Editor’s note: Story amended to correct the location of the proposed East End track facility.

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