Pillion paranoia

| Updated on January 09, 2018

Karnataka’s ban on pillion riders on sub-100cc two-wheelers is absurd

Karnataka’s move to ban pillion riders on sub-100cc two-wheelers flies in the face of safety logic. There is no evidence to suggest that riders in this category are more vulnerable to road deaths than their counterparts on more powerful bikes and scooters. The implicit assumption — that cyclists are safer than pillion riders of mopeds, entry-level bikes and mini-scooters — is also bereft of any empirical supporting evidence. This is not to say that India’s roads are safe. On the contrary, road deaths claim a staggering 1.5 lakh lives every year, which puts the country right on top of the world list. Pedestrians, cyclists and two-wheeler users are the most vulnerable. This is also the category of people whose disposable income will only permit them to settle for a moped or 100cc bike. By targeting this category, the Karnataka government clearly believes that accidents will come down. When bad roads and potholes are the bigger villains of the piece, how this proposed ban on pillion riding will help is completely inexplicable. The State government has also mandated that the rule will apply only to new products and not existing ones. How this helps the cause of safety, if indeed safety was the objective behind such quixotic rule-making, escapes understanding. The bigger task on hand for Karnataka (and other States) is to ensure that proper road infrastructure is in place to ensure some degree of safety. The state of roads in most of our cities is pathetic. Targeting pillion riders is missing the woods for the trees. In the meantime, traffic police will have a field day targeting violators even if the rule applies only to new products.

Nobody is trying to argue that two-wheeler users are being given a raw deal. On the contrary, two-wheeler riders are a growing menace. Rules are flouted with disdain, be it in the case of doing away with helmets or carrying an entire family on a bike. Food delivery riders zip around at top speeds and get into no-entry zones and wrong lanes. These are the areas governments need to focus on instead of arriving at bizarre solutions. Fix the roads, ensure strict implementation of traffic rules, impose stiff fines on violators, and improve public transport while ensuring that the rider and pillion wear helmets.

The bigger issue is the impact this has on industry. Our statute books are littered with examples of policymakers getting hold of the wrong end of the stick — be it villainising a fuel type, or a particular engine capacity, throwing investment and future plans into disarray. We need sane legislation and not knee-jerk reactions. India is the world’s largest producer of two-wheelers at over 17 million units annually, projected to reach 25 million by 2020. This large number reflects the dire need for mobility by the masses. The real problem lies there.

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Published on October 31, 2017
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