Couple of months back, a friend posted a compilation of bike accidents (none of the clips seemed to have been shot in our country) where you could see how the bikers were tossed into the air like roomali roti or rolled on the road like Chinese dolls after being hit by “irresponsible” four-wheelers. Bloody killers, all four-wheelers? Isn’t it? That is what my friend’s post said. “Oh, my God. Hapless bikers. My heart goes out for them”.
My heart goes out too, it pops into my mouth actually, when bikes loaded with threesomes hurtle from behind, swerve a suicidal right, kiss my left fender and disappear into the chaos ahead, leaving behind sinusoidal scar on my brain.
I agree that on the highway, or on free, open roads, like you have in developed countries, or late at night, the equation completely changes. Bikes are fewer, large vehicles dominate. If you are riding, you are indeed hapless against speeding trucks, cars, buses. However, during day time traffic, inside the city, bikes are by far the worst traffic offenders and I have no sympathy for them.
Okay, this is not my PhD research topic, so spare me the statistical deliberations. But just to get a sense of the menace, I have asked autowallahs, street side vendors, taxiwallahs (you best chance is when you take an Ola or Uber) and few bikers. The response has mostly been unequivocal. Bikes are the worst elements on road. They have little respect for their own life and for the lives of others. And if it’s a young rider hugged tightly from behind by a bandit queen, well, you better pray that they don’t cross your path and fly out safely instead.
There have been reports of bikes colliding head on and riders killed! Wow. Can you imagine? Though this is certainly not the norm, it’s a pointer to how people ride in this country. Like everything else, there are good, responsible bikers and there are monkeys (sorry forefathers, it’s just habit, I swear, because humans can surpass monkeys any day in ‘monkeyness’). But I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the biggest idiots of the city (and their number is huge, believe me!) have a long seat between their legs.
Though I can’t speak about all cities of the country with as much conviction, I can surely talk about the temple city of Bhubaneswar, where I regularly, haplessly, steer my monthly-salary-burning EMI-chewing car amidst a swarm of impatient, intolerant, insolent bikes.
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— Easy license: in India, getting a bike license is the as easy as someone topping the Bihar examinations (Okay, agreed, slightly difficult than topping).
— Easier to learn: A monkey who can pedal can also turn the throttle (only the clutch and gear part is new, rest all you know already). Many take to biking with little practice because it seems so easy that you almost think you are a born biker. So you have legions of half-cooked riders who only know how to keep balance, but whose heads are completely out of balance.
— Greater sense of control: Bikes offer greater visibility and offer better control than the four wheelers. You can see the entire action around easily, move it easily around narrow lanes, between vehicle gaps and stop easily after a casual flick of hand. The greater control over the machine creates an illusion of greater power. It provides more avenues to experiment on the road and more freedom to break the rules (e.g. riding on the designated sidewalks, taking u-tuns on a one-way road seeing traffic jam ahead)
— Not much of a risk: Biking is third party risk free. If you hit someone with a bike (someone larger I mean), it’s their fault. If someone hits you, it’s not just their fault. It’s Mahapaap. Sala, you are the most innocent guy on the face of earth, jumping around roads and scrubbing cars in childlike innocence!
— They are cheaper: Because bikes are cheap and bare-bone machines (unlike cars that are covered in an expensive sheet), most minor accidents don’t cause significant damage to the bike. The unique thing about a bike is, in case of a minor accident, it’s the rider who is at greater risk than the bike. So if the rider is someone who doesn’t care about his own, chances that he would care about expenses on the bike is remote. But in case of a car, you know that you might be alright inside, but any damage will cost you heavily. If you fall down from a bike, the leg-guard, leg-rests and the handle bar takes the brunt, and you might break the indicator lights. Spend a few hundred rupees and it’s done. A single dent on a car can set you back by thousands.
— Impossible to be chased: It’s almost impossible for a car to chase a biker on a city road. This also gives a lot of peace of mind to people who take the skin off your naulakha and merrily vroom away, celebrating as you fade behind their rear view mirror (if there is one in the first place, not replaced by brass penises)
Every time I take my car out, I wish to either let go of the steering and rather use my hands to pull out hair, or put foot to accelerator and run over a few idiots. But both are equally untenable, preposterous whims. First, due to an already short supply of hair and second, because some people think it’s illegal.