BICYCLES RETURN AS OKADA TAKE LEAVE OF STREETS IN UYO
Today, bicycle sellers and repairers, who, three years ago, were lamenting about poor business, are smiling to the bank or something close to that. At least, they say things are getting better because okada are off the streets.
A casual glance in the streets of Uyo has shown that bicycles are re-emerging, not for pleasure or recreational ride as was the case a few months ago but for real private transportation, sometimes with a passenger on the carrier.
While some of the riders may be too shy to talk, the sellers and repairers in Akpan Andem Market are not shy. In fact, they are busy, praising the government for banning motorcycle, resulting in a boost in bicycle business.
Mr. Mfonobong Sam told Daily Sun at his bicycle stall in the market that business has improved since government banned motorcycles and that the prices of bicycles had equally jumped up.
Sam praised the state government for banning okada, not necessarily for the improvement of the bicycle-selling business but also for the safety of people on the road. He also said erstwhile okada riders, who had learnt some trades had since gone back to practise them to boost the economy 'because most of them were self-employed before going into okada business to make fast money.'
'There has been no death due to accident since motorcycles were banned and bicycle does not harm anyone. At least it has not been reported yet.'
But he was quick to add that the ban on okada had brought untold hardship to the people as transportation has become extremely difficult, especially for traders, who find it difficult to take their goods to the selling points like markets and reasoned that such had helped to slow down the economy.
A bicycle repairer, Anietie Udo, said his business was gradually picking up as people were buying bicycles thereby bringing it to them to fix accessories and repairs. This he said, at least, has provided income to feed their family.
In terms of prices, Udo said there had been marginal increase as White Fork brand of bicycle, which earlier sold for N15,000 is now N17,000.
But other sellers said they had lost out because they did not have enough money to stock their shops after a long period of inactivity. Now that things are improving, it is only those, who had enough money to buy many bikes when it was cheap that are benefitting.
The only buyer, who agreed to speak, David Ubon, who came all the way from Etinan to Uyo to buy the bicycle even though motorcycles are not banned in Etinan, complained of price hike, saying sports bicycle, which he said used to sell for N9,000, now cost between N13,000 and N15,000.
'Since government stopped motorcycles in Uyo, ordinary people cannot afford transportation again because of the cost as even the motorcycles which cost between N60,000 and N70,000 are now N100,000. Now people buy bicycles, to at least transport themselves to nearby places. This has also made the cost of bicycle to increase. A lot of people came to buy but some have left since I came because of the exorbitant cost,' Ubon said.
Tricycles are struggling for space with cars, which have now filled the streets of Uyo. Nobody knows where all these cars where parked to suddenly pour into the street after motorcycles had been banned. Will bicycles also join in the street fight? Maybe, you can't kill a bicycle.