Riding two-wheelers on the roads of Pune city and Pimpri-Chinchwad continues to be a nightmare, with as many as 175 riders losing their lives since January this year. Equally shocking is the number of those who sustained injuries in accidents involving two-wheelers. As many as 500 people were injured, with some ending up in a coma and others suffering permanent damage to their limbs.
The number of deaths and injuries is much more in 2017, highlighting the increasing risks two-wheeler riders face in Pune city, Pimpri-Chinchwad and the three cantonments of Pune, Khadki and Dehu Road. By the end of September 2016, 140 two-wheeler riders died in accidents while in the same period in 2017, 175 two-wheeler riders have lost their lives. Similarly, by September 2016, 411 two-wheeler riders were injured, while in the same period this year, 500 two-wheeler riders have been injured, Pune traffic police officials told The Indian Express.
This year, 80 per cent of those who died in two-wheeler accidents were in the age group of 18 to 40 years. None of the 175 two-wheeler riders who have died this year were wearing a helmet. While the protective gear is mandatory under the law, several riders don’t wear them, and traffic police have been unable to enforce the law. Both the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), which are supposed to ensure that the roads remain in good condition, have been found wanting in the task.
Speaking on the issue, Pune Police Commissioner Rashmi Shukla said she was “deeply concerned” about the large number of deaths of two-wheeler riders. “It’s high time a mission is launched to save the lives of two-wheeler riders. I will discuss the matter with the traffic police and experts so that a mission can be launched,” Shukla told The Indian Express.
District Guardian Minister Girish Bapat, who had promised to start an initiative to save the lives of two-wheeler riders last year, said this year, he was going to take concrete steps in that direction. “I am busy for three or four days. But next week, I plan to set up a committee that will suggest steps to make two-wheeler riders safe in the city”.
Pune MP Anil Shirole, who had made a similar promise, said he will have to study the problems faced by two-wheeler riders before suggesting a solution. On the other hand, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Traffic, Ashok Morale said there were several factors responsible for the large number of deaths. “Some of the reasons, like riding recklessly, are of the riders’ own making, while some can be attributed to the failure of civic bodies in ensuring that roads are in proper condition,” he said. Morale said 30-40 per cent of the deaths were avoidable. “The figures speak for themselves. Of the 175 riders who died, I think 40 per cent or even more could have survived if they had worn a helmet. It is difficult to understand why two-wheeler riders don’t want to wear helmets, which protect their life,” he said.
Riding while drunk was another major issue, said the DCP. “Of the 10,000 motorists who were caught driving under the influence of alcohol, 8,000 were two-wheeler riders. Every month, we catch at least 800 drunk bikers,” he said. Morale added, “Bikers top our list of those who break the signal at traffic junctions”. Morale added, “Reckless and speedy riding is common among bikers. There is a greater risk to their lives when they are speeding, especially on highways. Installing speed governance is one of the solutions that can be considered.” He said two-wheelers riders have a tendency to enter no-entry zones and ride in the opposite direction. “They do this to reach their destination in a short time, which is dangerous…,” said Morale.
“Both PMC and PCMC should ensure that speed-breakers don’t claim the lives of bikers, even if they are riding in the night,” said the DCP while advocating that separate two-wheeler tracks should be considered on some roads in the city.
Agreeing with the traffic police, Prashant Inamdar, convenor of Pedestrians First, said a majority of lives could be saved if civic bodies and cantonment boards “behaved responsibly”. “… Be it unwieldy speed-breakers, potholes and craters, shrinking road width, or footpath encroachments forcing people to walk on roads, it is all happening on Pune’s roads. The question is, when will the civic bodies take the lives of citizens seriously,” he asked.
Inamdar said police should take strict action against those who violate traffic rules, adding, “Traffic police should act tough to send a strong signal to bikers who violate norms,” he said.
Gauri Sarwate, a resident of Prabhat Road who had lost her 29-year-old brother in a road accident, said, “My brother died because a tempo was coming from the wrong side…He was on a two-wheeler and was not wearing a helmet. He sustained a head injury. I think he could have survived if he was wearing a helmet,” Sarwate said four-wheelers needed to be “disciplined” first as they “don’t care about bikers’ lives.”