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What should be the ideal speed limit for vehicles on city roads? Debate is on

Over 100 two-wheeler riders, pedestrians and cyclists have been killed by PMPML buses since 2007.

Nearly 250 two-wheeler riders die every year in road accidents in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. Nearly 250 two-wheeler riders die every year in road accidents in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad.

In a city where nearly 250 two-wheeler riders die every year on roads, what should be the speed limit for four-wheelers and two-wheelers? There seems to be no consensus among the authorities, politicians, intellectuals and activists in the city. Most road users, however, want the speed of vehicles to be curbed to a minimum to save as many lives as possible.

While the Union Road Transport Ministry has recently issued a notification  specifying the speed limit at 100 kmph for cars and 80 kmph for two-wheelers on highways, it has left the decision to set a speed limit for city roads to the local traffic police and civic or district authorities.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Sarang Awad Sunday said as far as the expressway was concerned, the speed limit for four-wheelers was 80 kmph. “But four-wheelers have been found to be driven beyond 80 kmph. In city areas, I am not sure what would be the ideal speed limit. We will have to discuss with local civic body officials and the district collector to come up with a norm,” he said.

Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) buses have turned out to be the worst offenders on roads in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. Over 100 two-wheeler riders, pedestrians and cyclists have been killed by PMPML buses since 2007, when the transport body was formed. According to PMPML Joint Managing Director Pravin Ashtikar, the buses have a speed limit of 16 to 25 kmph. However, he said, “it is true that a few drivers flout the norm. It is difficult to control 4,000 drivers.”

Refusing to quote a speed limit for other vehicles, Ashitkar said they were providing four types of training to drivers to control speed and drive safely.

He said the speed limit for buses on BRTS route was 35 kmph.

PCMC Commissioner Rajiv Jadhav said he would discuss with traffic authorities the ideal speed limit for Pimpri-Chinchwad. “We will discuss the issue with the traffic police tomorrow,” he said.

R Sathyan, a retired income tax officer, said vehicles started zooming at top speed after roads were widened in Pimpri-Chinchwad, leading to ghastly accidents. “Just last week, three youths riding a two-wheeler lost their lives after a four-wheeler hit them on Telco Road,” he said.

Prashant Inamdar of Pedestrians First said it was a matter of thorough study. The speed limit on highways running through congested city areas, he said, should be different than that on highways passing through non-congested areas. “If service roads are provided along the highways, speed limit could be higher,” he said.

However, Inamdar said, the ideal speed limit for four-wheelers, be it cars or trucks, in city areas should not go beyond 40 kmph. “And for two-wheelers too, it could be 40 kmph,” he said, adding that several lives could be saved if the speed limit was curbed on city roads.

“If the traffic police does an in-depth study of the reasons behind the death of around 240 two-wheeler riders on city roads, it will find that a majority of these deaths have occurred because the vehicles were in top speed. If an accident occurs when two vehicles are in top speed, the chances of survival are less. If the vehicles are being driven at a slow speed and meet with an accident, the chances of survival of the victims increase,” he said.

New Law College principal Mukuund Sardah said there was no seriousness on part of both traffic police and civic bodies in checking the speed of vehicles. “It does not need a rocket science to find out that accidents occur because of speed and lives are lost of because of speed… If the traffic police and civic officials implement the minimum speed norm stringently, I don’t see any reason why driving on Pune’s roads won’t become much safer,” he said, adding that a speed limit of 30-40 kmph should be strictly imposed on four-wheelers on city roads.

“Speed kills and everyone is well aware of it,” said Vijay Kumbhar of Surajya Sangharsh Samiti, adding: “It, however, seems the authorities have left it all to the drivers to decide. The local civic bodies and traffic officials are real bosses of city’s roads. How can they allow drivers to use the roads at their whims and fancies?”

Instead of  targeting citizens over parking of vehicles and disturbing peace in the city, Kumbhar said, the traffic police should help save lives by imposing a strict speed norm.

Congress leader Mohan Joshi said: “There is a need to launch a campaign to check the increasing number of fatal accidents involving two-wheeler riders on city’s roads. It is clear that speeding vehicles are responsible for such deaths. We should come up with a minimum speed limit norm for city areas.”

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