Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Safe journey!


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The bikers roared along the ABC Highway; The Tribe heading to a bar at Lemon Arbor, St John.
This Saturday morning, they don’t even come close to the movie image of bikers as rowdy bar hoppers.
In carrying out their weekend ritual of meeting at The Gymnasium, members of the newly formed The Tribe have opted for the scenic route to the quaint village bar.
The Eyewitness team joins the pack at the invitation of the group who are fed up with the stereotyping of local bikers as nothing more than menaces on the road.
Complaints about freewheeling trouble-making bikers bobbing and weaving between traffic, overtaking recklessly or simply showing no consideration for others on the road are harming the image The Tribe is trying to project. A re-emergence of stunt photos and videos in the media has also rekindled public concern about road safety as far as this fringe group of mostly motorcross bikers is concerned.
They are notorious for gleefully outrunning the police in a taunting game of catch-me-if-you-can using their lightweight vehicles to out manoeuvre lawmen over difficult terrain. In some instances the offending bikers are also accused of drug running or drive-by crimes.  
That reputation is putting other road lovers at risk as they become the targets of an angry public’s road rage. Some of The Tribe members say they’ve experienced motorists trying to force them off the road, drivers opening their doors on them and other acts of aggression.
Russell Wilson, the leader, has been knocked from his bike with the driver driving off and leaving him alongside the road.
“I am a father, we have fathers, brothers, loved ones in this group,” he said. “We all have somebody who loves us. What we are doing here is making sure that you get back home to your loved ones.”  
He admitted that there are a group of bikers who will push the boundaries of what is safe by their behaviour in public but The Tribe always rides in formation, making it difficult for vehicles to try to cut in on them or cut them off.
There is no room for irresponsible stuntmen or women here. The members, brought together through a love of biking, come from a range of professions including martial arts instructors, doctors, pharmaceutical representatives, contractors and businessmen.
Wilson has lost five friends in seven years and decided that he would find a solution rather than wallow in self-pity over the portrayal of the bikers.
”We try to teach people the safe way to ride and operate the motorcycle; we offer a safe environment,” explained Wilson, who has been riding for 17 years. He puts his highly coordinated techniques into practice as we take the 40-minute journey from St Michael to St John using the ABC Highway, making a turn at Six Roads, St Philip, passing HM Prisons Dodds and the St Philip’s Parish Church.
Among the group are a father and son, a couple, a female and a Scout leader.
From the lead position Wilson gives the signal for the various formations and members move with precision. Foot and hand signals passed on from rider to rider raise the alarm of potholes, bumps, spills and other dangers in the road.
At different junctions a biker takes the lead and performs a “roadblock” in order for all the bikers to pass through safely at once.
Most motorists obliged except at the junction at St Philip Parish Church where one driver appeared intent on forging his way past the cyclist, who was holding traffic, and into the group.
“We’re glad you saw that,” Wilson said, using it as an example of how law–abiding bikers can bear the brunt for someone else’s nonsense on the road.
He explains why the bike we were on was loud: without size the biker depends on the drivers to hear them approaching and in many cases they did.
We zipped along observing drivers’ reaction to the bikers while passers-by are fascinated.
There are two major formations regularly employed, and when the “W” formation is flashed the riders position themselves so the less experienced riders are kept in check. On smaller roads riders keep a slightly staggered line and this is indicated by the raising of one finger in the air.
At our destination rider Chad, a young member encouraged by his mother to get a bike, is explaining the use of the throttle to take the bike from leaning into an upright position.
Rhanda, the only female rider on this day, recalls some of her falls, saying the injuries were more to her pride and she has accepted that falls are to be expected.
Don-O’Brian, also a snorkeler, is preaching respect for the bikers who are sharing the road with other users. He does not accept the excuse by motorists that they did not see the bikers.
Tavell, another member, talks about safety on the road which includes avoiding cellphone calls.
This group with a social conscience, painted and spruced up the home of a woman in need last year as part of its charity work.
They spend a while in the area before moving off. Russell reveals that on some days individuals will say a prayer for the group before they set out from home.
At the end of any outing there is a relay of messages and calls to ensure that everyone has reached safely.


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