Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXIX No. 11, September 16-30, 2019
Many years ago, I was crossing the road at Elliot’s Beach. I was suddenly hit with great force. As I fell, it seemed as if a thousand needles were pricking me all at once. So this is how it feels when a vehicle hits, I thought. A motorcycle had barged into me.
I groggily rose to my feet, helped by passers-by who berated the motorcyclist. But he was neither contrite nor worried. Is this a road or a race-course, I asked him. He shrugged his shoulders saying, “I wasn’t that fast.” I suffered slight bruises in three or four places, but nothing serious. My main concern at that time was my spectacles which had been thrown off. It is perhaps broken, said the motorcyclist helpfully, as he fetched it. Fortunately it wasn’t.
That incident worsened my aversion to Chennai’s motorcyclists, whom I regard as terrorists of the road. Particularly those daredevil teenagers who race each other at breakneck speed, or shatter ear drums as they zoom past you. Some dart without warning into the main road from side lanes. They not only ignore red lights, but bully the vehicle ahead to do so. During busy traffic, they weave in and out of the narrowest of spaces, blasting the rear mirrors of cars, and zig-zag their way ahead. The food delivery boys of fast food joints are chronic offenders.
They may not care for other people’s lives, but how about their own?
Of course not all motorcylists are such a menace. There are responsible motorcyclists of all ages. Women ride scooters with caution, sometimes dropping off kids at school. Young executives or owners of small-scale businesses are crucially dependent on motor cycles. They are careful and law-abiding. I admire my computer mechanic who maintains the hardware of several small companies. He logs scores of kilometres every day, sometimes carrying one or more computers on the saddlebag.
I think Chennai’s traffic police go after the big guns of the road – the cars and trucks and buses – and are indulgent with motorcycles. Occasionally of course, the police go on a law-enforcement spree, and you see a towing truck loaded with guilty motor cycles.
One hears that penalties for traffic offences have gone up steeply. A motorcyclist without a helmet is supposed to pay a fine of Rs.1,000 and can have his driving license suspended for three months. But neither the Chennai police nor the motorcyclists here have heard of this law. The heads of Chennai motorcyclists sport thick mops of hair rather than helmets. If our city enforces the law strictly, it could easily net a few crores of rupees every month.
No reasonable person wants others to suffer. But our road terrorists ought to be treated without mercy, much like the terrorists from across the border. It would lead to safer roads, fewer accidents, less daily trauma for Chennaiites.