Parliament returns motorcycles to work [Archives:2006/937/Front Page]

April 13 2006

By: Yasser Al-Mayasi
SANA'A, April 12 ) In its April 10 session, Parliament issued directions to the government to return fit motorcycles to work, stipulating that they should have customs license and metal plates. Parliament directed that unfit cycles can resume work as soon as they meet these conditions.

The decision came following sit-ins held by motorcyclists (known in Yemen as motors), their families and children in front of Parliament, the last of which was Monday. Several civil society representatives and journalists joined the motorcyclists and their families at Monday's sit-in. They demanded the motorcycles' release and for the government to stop hampering cyclists in earning their living.

Members of Parliament confirmed the unanimous decision and the fact that they are insistent on executing it. If the government refuses to carry it out, they will take measures against it, including withdrawal of confidence.

The remonstrating motorcyclists shouted slogans and poems attacking the capital's citywide ban against them. A number of journalists gave speeches in solidarity, denouncing government practices that hamper many sectors in their living. One such speaker asserted, “If one of the officials' sons established a motorcycle investment institution, it would be praised as a great step and would find support.”

The crisis between motorcyclists and the government reached a climax following escalations by the cyclists to defend their honorable living and face government constraints. The case found public, parliamentary and political support following the government's pressure to stop the cycles. This caused cyclists to resort to demonstrations and sit-ins to pressure the government to abstain from its decision.

Confrontations with motorcyclists began last year following the government's decision to ban motorcycles in Sana'a for security, traffic safety and environmental reasons, as well as preserve the capital city's civilized appearance. The decision to limit them in the governorates was justified by reducing daily traffic accidents, noise and traffic jams in main streets caused by motorcycles.

Following the decision, the government instituted a number of measures to prevent more motorcycles from entering Yemen, with many motorcycles being held up at customs entrances. There was a wide range of campaigns to confiscate motorcycles because of the nuisance and environmental damages they cause. Within three months, traffic authorities confiscated hundreds of motorcycles and closed down their sales stores to stop their spread in the capital.

The decision was met with widespread refusal by motorcyclists, despite government's confinement of its decision to the capital in consideration of economic conditions in the governorates. Official institutions also refused the decision, including Parliament, which called on the government to reconsider its decision.

Motorcycles recently became popular, replacing cars for reasons including unemployment, poverty, poorly planned roads and traffic jams. Motorcycles became a means to make a living for many and thousands of families depend on their income.

According to Ministry of Interior statistics, those using motorcycles to work in the capital were 2,400. Hodeidah has the highest number of motorcycles, estimated at 30,000, whereas there are approximately 10,000 motorcycles in Taiz. Among all the governorates, the total number of those using motorcycles to work is approximately 150,000.