The new Versova police chowky is located on the road, but was locked from outside when mid-day paid a visit. Pics/DATTA KUMBHAR
With two police stations nearby and a new police chowky right on their street, the residents of Lokhandwala Backroad had hoped they would finally see the last of bike racing menace. But the bikers continue to drive the Lokhandwala-Oshiwara Citizens Association 'LOCA', the police stations are merely passing buck to each other, crying jurisdiction.
Lokhandwala Backroad has long been notorious for its biker menace, with riders attempting dangerous stunts and drag races there every evening. Nothing has stopped the menace so far — not the 16 speed breakers installed by the BMC on the 2-km stretch, nor the Versova and Oshiwara police stations, both of which hold jurisdiction in the locality.
While officers from both police stations claim they carry out regular nakabandis and patrolling, residents said the bikers continue to do as they please.
Even after setting up a new chowky on Lokhandwala Backroad less than a year ago, the Versova police have not been able to put an end to the issue. In fact, when mid-day visited the spot, the chowky was found unattended and padlocked from outside. Even the nakabandis and barriers set up by the Versova police and Lokhandwala police were unattended.
Versova Police' barricades are left unattended on the road
"Lokhandwala Backroad has been infamous for years because of bike racing, illegal parking of luxury buses and, more recently, encroachment by hawkers," said Dhaval Shah, founder of the Lokhandwala-Oshiwara Citizens Association (LOCA). "Despite the newly opened Versova beat chowky, the drag racers continue to enjoy their late evening stunts almost daily, putting other motorists and pedestrians at risk, as well as creating noise pollution in the locality."
Police copping out
When mid-day approached Senior PI Subhash Khanvilkar from Oshiwara police station, he said: "More than 90 per cent of Backroad comes under the jurisdiction of the Versova police; ours is only the portion of the road that runs parallel to Joggers Park. We regularly set up nakabandis on our end of the road."
Senior PI Kiran Kale of Versova police had a similar answer: "We have a new police chowky set up there and regularly patrol on Backroad. We even set up barricades and nakabandis to apprehend motorists."
But this reporter did not find cops from either police station manning the checkpoints on the road. Asked to provide the number of rash driving cases they had registered so far this year, officers from both stations said they would not be able to do so.
"The Backroad stretch heading towards Reliance is a secluded area where youngsters race in their vehicles. Most of them ride triple-seat on their bikes and, in some cases, there are up to five people in a single auto rickshaw. This is risks the lives of the passengers as well as fellow motorists and joggers," said social activist Prakash Gidwani.
Dhaval Shah, founder of LOCA
Bumps in the road
Even the speed breakers installed by the BMC have added to the locals' problem. With as many as 16 speed bumps in relatively short stretch, motorists have to suffer an extremely bumpy ride. There is also an increased risk of accidents, as some of the bumps have not been painted for easy visibility. After all of these inconvenience to locals, the speed breakers don't even serve their purpose – the BMC never bothered to repair any wear and tear, which means bikers often just dodge the bumps from the side.
According to Prashant Gaikwad, assistant municipal commissioner (K/W ward), however, the speed breakers are doing their job. "Installing the speed breakers — as well as their positioning — was decided by the traffic department. I think the breakers have helped to reduce the biking menace," he said, adding that they would ensure that the bumps are repaired and painted soon.
Traffic cop says
Even the traffic police have trouble catching up with the bikers, said Senior Police Inspector Chandrakant Thale, from the DN Nagar traffic division, which also has jurisdiction in the area. "When the bikers see us coming, they race away at such high speeds that we cannot catch them. That is why we find it difficult to register rash driving cases," he added.
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