Since the end of the civil war, the Liberians demand for a sustainable future and economic growth seem to be optimistic and promising in that many of them have embarked on a path to self sustainability by exploring new ideas and taking on opportunities that have the potential to provide some sort of income that tend to lift their self esteem.
The introduction of motorcycles into the Liberian culture of transportation serve as a stimulus package to the transport sector of country, such business not only provide another means of transport but it creates a path for all class of Liberians because it provides a quick and flexible channel of transportation in and around each city in Liberia. While this sector of transport tend to create jobs and promote financial independence for many Liberians, it is also important to know that if such transport is not properly monitored, control, and regulated, it could pose a threat to public health and the ecosystem of Liberia in years to come.
As Liberia continue to develops, the demand for personal and commercial transport will rise and the means of transport must respond to such increasing demand in all aspects including quantity, quality, and modal diversification. While each transport has its merits and demerits, the problem is how to select and combine each transport means in a way that would maximize merits to overcome demerits under specific natural, economic, and social conditions in Liberia. Satisfying Liberians’ traveling need mean providing convenient transport modes, but at the same time ensuring that traffic safety, clean environment, and other social demand are significant parts that should be factored into the equation.
Having said that, policy and law makers in Liberia need to be aware that while this new frontier of transport is becoming so popular thus giving rise to its demand, there are anthropocentric manufactures or investors out there who are ready to do their part in meeting such demand and unless policy and law makers create a Motorcycle Emission Control Program that favor a Biometric policy that include standards and compliance process to ensure manufacture, importers, and dealers comply with such standards, this new opportunity of financial independency and self-esteem could become a public health issue in term of Air pollution.
The exhaust fumes out of a motorcycle produces more harmful emissions per mile than a regular car or a Super Utility Vehicle (SUV) and contain pollutants such as Particular Matter (PM) or white smoke, Hydrocarbon (HC), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Nitrogen Oxides (Nox), Carbon Monoxides (CO), and Lead (Pb). These compounds when release in the air, has the potential to affect human health and the ecosystem system and pose a risk to the environment. Having no restrictions or standards on emission control, the health risk from these particles or gases could lead to respiratory symptoms such cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, eyes, nose and irritations, allergies, reduced lung capacity, fatigue, and smog.
On the other hand, inhalation of lead gas could cause damage to the nervous system and pregnant women and children exposed to lead could create a learning disability and in some instances cause cancer. Unless some actions are taken to control emission pollution, Liberia could join other nations in fighting Air pollution and adopting emission standards is the first step in controlling pollutant exhaust from low standards motorcycles that produce Particles Matters or White smoke.
Finally, my concern won’t be complete without discussing ways to protect both the operators and passengers that ride these motorcycles in Liberia. The best protection for motorcycles operators and passengers is motorcycle helmets, as Liberians ride on these two legged machine, the helmet would protect them from head injuries as a result of a crash. Most accidents involving motorcycles deaths are due to head injuries, a motorcyclist is 27 times more likely to die in a crash than someone riding in a car.
An unhelmeted motorcyclist is 40 percent more likely to suffer fatal head injuries and 15 percent more likely to suffer a nonfatal injury than a helmet motorcyclist when involved in a crash. Policy and Law makers should not take these facts and throw them through the windows; a visit to JFK and other medical facilities around the country is one of the best ways to verify these facts.
Please do not leave this life saving concerns to the motorcyclists, the best way to ensure that Liberian motorcyclists enjoy a comfortable ride, is for law makers to enact a Motorcycles Helmet Laws because it would be the most effective method of increasing helmet use by both the operators and passengers. Let build a sustainable Society in Liberia, there is nowhere like home.
By Randy Darpoh
Environmental Engineer Technologist and Environmental Policy Specialist