EVEN AS Pune Police Commissioner Rashmi Shukla has appealed to experts and residents to come forward with suggestions for launching a mission to save the lives of two-wheeler riders, activists have stressed on the need for civic bodies and police to “do their job effectively”.
Activists also argued that civic bodies and cantonment boards should focus on fixing city roads, and sought harsher punishments for traffic violators.
Responding to a Pune Newsline article on November 1, ‘On Pune’s dangerous roads, 175 bikers dead and counting’, Shukla had expressed the “pressing need to launch a mission to save young lives”.
The city police chief had also assured that she will hold talks with the heads of both the civic bodies, the Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd, the educational institutes in the city, to come up with solutions for the issue.
Meanwhile, activist Vivek Velenkar said, “I blame the condition of the city’s roads for the frequent deaths of two-wheeler riders. Potholes, craters, abnormally-shaped speed-breakers, dim lighting on the streets, missing signages and poor surface markings can be seen across the city. Civic officials are clearly not serious about the lives of Pune residents.”
The traffic police, too, are at fault, he added. “If police act tough against rash and reckless drivers, two-wheeler fatalities would see a substantial decline,” he said. However, Velenkar said, he was against making helmets compulsory. “I am not against wearing helmets. Helmets should be worn by every body. But it should not be mandatory. Over the years, at least 22 experiments have been carried out on the use of helmets in Pune, all of which have failed,” he added.
“Every one should realise how important helmets are on their own. Instead of mandating it, there is a need for more awareness campaigns. Such campaigns can be conducted by the police, or social and voluntary organisations,” he said.
Similarly, activist R Sathyan said, “If police keep a hawk’s eye on traffic violations, especially those by two-wheeler riders, this problem can be nipped in the bud.” For instance, he added, high-octane bikes frequently pose a threat to other riders. “They try to zip past other vehicles from the wrong side, leading to confusion and, often, accidents. Such riders should be hauled up.”
Sathyan, who is a retired Income Tax officer, added that bikers should also be told to use dim lights during the night. “Every vehicle has this facility. When streets are well lit, there is no need for bikers to add to the glare, which can cause accidents.” He stressed that the helmet rule should be enforced strictly.
D G Baliga, a retired Air Force officer, said the biggest reasons are pothole-ridden roads and “ridiculous” sizes and shapes of speed-breakers. “A pothole is repaired only if someone sustains an injury or dies…” he added.
On the state of speed-breakers, Baliga said, “I don’t think there is one speed-breaker, or rumble strip, that adheres to the Indian Road Congress norms. They are so high and abnormally-sized that it leaves either the rider injured or the bike damaged. Hundreds of riders have been injured or lost their lives after hitting the speed-breakers.”
“My wife and I, too, had survived a similar accident, after we ran into an unwieldy speed-breaker and fell off our bike. Luckily, we escaped with a minor injury. This is because I was riding extremely slow, but not all riders think likewise,” he added.
Baliga, meanwhile, also stressed on the need for enforcing a strict helmet rule. “Helmets should be worn by both riders and pillion passengers. The Motor Vehicles Act stipulates that a fine should be imposed on those who do not wear helmets. A fine was recently imposed, then why are the police not enforcing it strictly? Police should act tough… it will help reduce the number of deaths,” he said.
According to the city police chief, many of the 175 lives lost this year could have been saved if only the bikers had worn helmets. “I don’t know why Pune residents hate wearing helmets…” she had said.