A cursory look at roads in most of our cities, towns and communities clearly indicates the ever increasing and heavy presence of tricycles popularly referred to as Pragia, Okada, Kɛkɛ etc., playing key roles in facilitating the transportation of people and goods from one point to the other.
In some towns and communities, tricycles have virtually taken over the local transport business, effectively collapsing the traditional taxi business, a typical example is Wenchi in the Bono region. Some other towns like Tarkwa in the Western region have however refused to allow tricycles especially Pragia, to ply their roads certainly due to fear of the unknown.
Though these tricycles continue to appear on our roads at a faster rate, there appears to be no serious regulatory framework governing their influx and riding. One does not know exactly where in our motor traffic architecture these tricycles can be conveniently placed unlike motor cars and motorbikes.
Notwithstanding, tricycles since their introduction into the country's transport system have succeeded in bridging a serious transportation gap which the traditional or mainstream car/taxi system could not easily fill.
Apart from pragia being cheap and affordable, riders also venture into difficult terrains which under normal circumstances a taxi would dare not go. This has led to the wide acceptability of these tricycles as an easy mode of transportation of persons and goods.
In some of our villages it is the only "ambulance" available to rush the sick to the nearest hospital proving beyond all reasonable doubts to be the lifeline to the community's deadline. They are used to cart foodstuffs from the farm gate to the market centres playing critical roles in agriculture and commerce. They are also used to transport commuters to social events like church services, mosques, weddings, funerals and all other events in our communities. They are even used to transport school children to and from the school.
The money obtained from pragia transport business is undoubtedly a reliable source of income for both owners and riders and also their dependents, sometimes it is the only reliable source of family income. Pragia undeniably stimulates and invigorates the local economy to some extent as food vendors, fuel stations, mechanics, car wash stations etc., benefit from the pragia business.
Unfortunately, despite all the above mentioned positives of the emergence of pragia unto our transport system, it is gradually metamorphosing into a social canker almost becoming a curse rather than a blessing.
Since nobody regulates the inflows of pragia in our local communities their numbers continue to increase day after day and very soon the numbers will overwhelm us as people would continue to buy pragia until the system becomes saturated with pragia. Recently in my community, I could count about 400 of them plying our town roads and that is quite scary.
We should be concerned about accidents being caused by these tricycles as some fall down easily throwing passengers out and injuring them in the process. Since these tricycles are so light and without seat belts the safety of passengers who ride in it cannot be guaranteed and that should be a big source of worry to us all.
In a country where we already have serious challenges with motor cars and motorbikes especially in the light of the fact that carnage on our roads is on the ascendency plus armed robberies and other heinous crimes and crime related activities committed with cars and motorbikes, challenges with pragia and tricycles should be the least of our national worries but sadly that is not so.
We should therefore not sit down aloof and allow pragia to add to the already existing national albatross hanging around our necks with regards to cars and motorbikes.
We need to deal decisively with the creeping pragia menace lurking in the background before it is too late for had I known they say is always at last.
It is a well known fact that most pragia in the system are unregistered. A lot of pragia riders in our communities are mostly underage and do not have valid licenses to operate the tricycles. Due to this, most of the riders as expected ride recklessly and dangerously on our roads with careless abandon. They park anywhere, turn in the middle of major roads and also unnoticed over speeding.
Some riders have the temerity to fix all sorts of illegal lights on their tricycles blurring vision of fellow road users at night. Some also ride playing loud music disturbing public peace.
One painful aspect of the whole pragia enterprise is that riders are mostly our young boys who ordinarily should have been in school in this era of Free SHS but are sadly riding pragia all over the place. My heart bleeds for our young girls who fall prey to these young pragia riders, this has led to an upsurge in teenage pregnancy and juvenile delinquency in our communities because pragia riders have "money" to seduce these young ladies truncating their academic journey in the process.
The explosive one is the emerging evidence of the use of pragia for crimes as riders hide weapons like machetes, scissors etc., in their cabin to commit crimes.
I believe the time to right all the wrongs is now. I implore the Ministry of Transport, Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service as well as the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) and the various Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies to as a matter of urgency put a regulatory framework in place to streamline the activities of these riders and check excesses.
Also, we should be on the constant lookout for the bad nuts amongst these riders and fish them out to sanitize the system which is now almost becoming polluted.
With a concerted effort, we can bring out the best in them and have a safer and better pragia transport system.
May God continue to bless our homeland Ghana and make her great and strong.
Felix Kwame Quainoo
The writer is a freelance writer from Aboso in the Western region