Carerras Bike-Man Project: woman leads the pack
A single mother from south Kingston has proved that she is the leader of the pack by making waves as the only female rider in the Carreras Limited Bike-Man project.
As she delivers Carreras popular cigarette brands, 26-year-old Raschida James has become the top rider and even trains newcomers to the programme.
Speaking exclusively to The Gleaner, the Donald Quarrie Comprehensive High School graduate declared, "I love riding! Riding gives you a sense of freedom that a car cannot give. There is nothing on the road that beats the freedom of a motorcycle. You just pack your bag and ride with the wind."
James joined Carreras' Bike- Man project over a year ago. it was set up as an initiative to help people back into employment and as part of Carreras corporate social responsibility programme. She tells her story.
"I was visiting my friend who worked at Carreras and her supervisor asked me if I could ride a motorcycle. I said yes, although I couldn't ride at the time. But I wanted the job so I pretended that I could ride.
"He asked me to bring in my rÈsumÈ and come for interview, at which he asked me to ride. He took me to Spanish Town Road and my heart was racing. I kept thinking 'what am I going to do or say when he discovers the truth'?"
Moment of truth
James continued, "When it was time to ride, I stalled the bike over and over again. It was embarrassing. I was scared that he was going to guess; however, he assumed I was nervous because of all the traffic and set up another date for me to return to ride."
She thanked God for the golden opportunity and began practising. Today, her bike skills are so superb, she helps to train new recruits. James, who says Fast and Furious is her favourite film, told The Gleaner: "I never gave up. Each time I fell or stalled the bike, I would try, try, and try again. I was determined to master how to ride because I wanted a job at Carreras to better my son's life along with my own."
So strong was her determination to ride well, it took three months to master both the road and bike. James describes the best aspects of her job as "travelling, meeting people and learning something new every day".
"Riding is sweet but crashing is horrible, so I learnt how to ride the hard way, and now I am queen of the pack," said James proudly.
"Besides riding, I also love working at Carreras because they provide training and safety workshops for us to learn how to protect ourselves on the road. If I go into an area and I don't feel safe, I leave because my safety always comes first. Prevention is always better than cure," James said.
She revealed that it took six months to tell her mother about her new job. "My mother was shocked when I told her I ride a motorcycle delivering cigarettes and begged me to be careful, but when she saw how happy I was, providing for family and myself, she felt more comfortable. My son Rashaun is also very proud and loves to tell his friends that his mum rides for Carreras. Both my mother and son encourage me to do and be the best."
James works five days a week covering downtown Kingston. As the only female rider at Carreras, she encourages other women to join her on the front line. "I love when people see me riding because they can't believe a woman like me is pulling up beside them at the traffic light."
Laughing, she added, "Women riders are the best on the road because we ride safer than men and we look better on the bike."
Always wearing full riding gear, including jacket and gloves, James states, "If you want to ride you have to first love it, plus have a strong sense of self-belief and determination. The road is not for the faint-hearted. If more women became courier riders, they would be surprised how much they could achieve for themselves. Employment helps women to create a new life and escape abusive situations."