The gravity of the situation can be understood from the fact that 10,406 accidents took place in Delhi between 2011 and 2016, according to the official data from the Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru traffic police. According to another police study, on an average, five people die in road accidents daily, out of which three are bikers.
This month, on 16 August, a 24-year-old man died after he lost control of his sports bike and crashed it into a wall near the Mandi House metro station. A few days ago, as told to The Sunday Guardian by a biker belonging to a popular rider community in Delhi, a 20-year-old boy died near the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade when his bike collided with that of the person he was racing against.
‘NOT IN A POSITION’
Talking to The Sunday Guardian, Delhi Police’s Deputy Commissioner (Traffic) B.K. Singh expressed helplessness to eliminate the menace completely. He said although they are trying to control the situation, inadequate coverage of CCTVs and insufficient police personnel are major handicaps.
“We have a very skeletal arrangement at night. The police cannot possibly control a group of five to seven bikers. Even when we try to, by the time we call the enforcers, the bikers escape. Our bikes are not strong enough, and our personnel are not very trained in bike riding,” he explained. He said the hazardous implications of reckless riding are more of a “societal problem” than a “police problem”, and stressed on the impossibility of controlling the market, which has welcomed and adapted the biking culture. He said parental counselling could be useful to address the situation.
Post 11 pm, scores of youths race around with their heavy and costly motorcycles (superbikes) at India Gate, Connaught Place, DND flyover, Kalindi Kunj area, on Chandigarh highway NH1 along the Murathal road, at the IIFT dhaba area (a popular racing spot thronged by a lot of youngsters), among many other places in Delhi. These bikers, who are in the age group of 16 to 25 years, are mainly from localities like Daryaganj, Punjabi Bagh, Karol Bagh and Lajpat Nagar, among others. After gathering at a common spot these bikers perform death-defying stunts like wheelie (riding the bike with the front wheel raised off the ground) and stoppie (applying brakes so that back wheel is lifted). “After 11-11.30 pm, the roads in Lutyens Delhi turn into a Need for Speed (a racing video game) tracks for the youths. They gather at places like India Gate and Noida-Greater Noida highway (in NCR) to perform dare devilish stunts, followed by bike racing. If the police is not in the vicinity, the show goes on till 2-3 am in the morning,” Paritosh Srivastava, a bike enthusiast, told The Sunday Guardian. Another bike enthusiast confirmed with this newspaper that it is during performing the stunts that a person or a group will challenge each other for a “showdown”. Showdown is a term used for a quick race or one-on-one stunt challenge. The prize money of such contests ranges between Rs 10,000 and Rs 40,000.
BIKE OR BIKER TO BLAME?
Superbikes, which are capable of clocking a speed of 100 kmph in three to five seconds, have spelt disaster on the roads. Owing to the spurt in superbike-related fatalities, critics have called for a total ban on these powerful bikes. While it is true that these heavy-duty motorcycles are extremely dangerous in the hand of a reckless driver, police and experts believe that banning these bikes is not the solution.
“Banning superbikes will do nothing. If you ban them, there will be smuggling of these bikes. The solution lies in counselling. Parents should rationalise before gifting their young kids such lethal bikes. They are made for professional riders, not a teenager,” said B.K. Singh.
Superbikes like Kawasaki Ninja 650R, Benelli 600i, Ducati Monster 1200, among many others, are the optimised versions of regular motorcycles. These bikes have enhanced speed, acceleration and braking mechanism and cost in the range of Rs 5 lakh to Rs 50 lakh in the Indian market. Essentially, these bikes are designed for track use and require optimum riding skills. Some bike enthusiasts told this newspaper that the underage and unskilled riders with no respect for safety have given these otherwise innovative motorcycles a bad name. They also called for stricter licensing laws that prohibit an immature rider from riding superbikes.
“These bikes are made for a certain segment and require a level of maturity. A first year college student with no training in handling such heavy machines should not be allowed to own these bikes. India could adopt the UK or Australia’s multiple licensing segment,” said a Gurgaon-based bike enthusiast, who is part of a bikers’ group, under the condition of anonymity.
Interestingly, under the current driving licensing regulations, there’s no demarcation on who can ride a 60cc scooter or 1000cc superbike.
The illegal market of bike modification—which thrives in Karol Bagh, Punjabi Bagh and in the stretch between Chhatarpur and Gurgaon—customises a basic 100-125 cc commuter bike to make it suitable for stunts and drag racing for merely Rs 8,000 to Rs 15,000.
The Sunday Guardian investigation in one such illegal market in Karol Bagh revealed that a lot of bike enthusiasts modify their basic commuter bikes to increase the bike’s capacity to perform stunts. “The entire body has to be made light. For Rs 15,000 we will put a lighter tank; your silencer will be replaced, mud guards will be removed, lighter tyres will be fitted... We will tune your engine to give you maximum acceleration. With this done you can perform any stunts you want with your bike,” a mechanic in one of the bike modification centres told these reporters, who posed as potential customers.
As per the rules, a vehicle can be allowed on the road only after it has gone through rigorous verification and test drives. In the absence of proper verification, there is no guarantee on the stability of the bike on the road, making the rider susceptible to fatal accidents. When asked if there is any plan to crack down on the bike modification centres running in different areas of Delhi, DCP B.K. Singh said he did not have any knowledge of such centres in his area. “Crackdown on illegal bike modification centres, or catching the people who ride modified bikes, is not a priority as of now. We have to look into maintaining the law and order, and security as our primary concerns and duties. Also, the nuisance has not acquired that big a dimension yet,” he added.