RWAMAGANA — Bicycle Taxi operators in Rwamagana town have protested a recent police directive banning their operation in the town centre.
The ban which affected close to 400 members of ATRA-VELO, a cooperative of bicycle riders, requires cyclists to only operate on feeder roads and stop 50 metres away from the main highway.
However, the cyclists complain that they were not given ample time to wind up their business, and seek alternative employment.
“We need a period of six to twelve months in order to recover our money which we lent out to members of our cooperative,” Jean Pierre Gakwandi, the president of ATRA-VELO said in his petition addressed to the District Mayor, Valens Ntenzirembo Tuesday.
In an interview with The New Times Gakwandi explained that they did not want to appear as if they were violating the police order but that they needed more time to recover their money and seek alternatives.
“We are ready to abide by the ban but we need to recover about Frw3.7million which members of the cooperative owe us. We intend to buy Velo-motos (small motorcycles) in order to continue our transport business in Rwamagana,’ Gakwandi said.
Responding to the petition, Mayor Ntenzirembo said the matter will be addressed during a scheduled meeting with district traffic officers and representatives of the cyclists.
He acknowledged the importance of bicycle transport, but stressed that life was precious. He said bicycle riding had not been suspended as many youths claim, but regulating the operation is what was new.
“We are not stopping the youth from cycling but we are restricting them to safer areas,” Ntezirembo said.
He advised the affected youth to seek loans in banks to devise other means of survival. He suggested that they buy small motorcycles as alternatives.
However, according to Gakwandi, the cooperative needs about Frw75 million to buy 100 small motorcycles but that the money was currently not available.
While issuing the ban, police explained that many accidents in the district last year were caused by bicycle taxis. Out of the 77accidents which occurred in Rwamagana, 27 were caused by cyclists. Of the 16 people who died nine of them were bicycle riders. Only two accidents occurred on unpaved roads.