Mumbai roads: Whose road is it, anyway?

While pedestrians are relegated to the footpaths, the fight for the right to space on Mumbai roads is largely between bikers and car drivers. Two-wheeler and four-wheeler owners come to blows at times, over road space issues and traffic rules. Biker boys claim that hi-tech cars race dangerously on the roads, while car owners scoff that the two-wheeled tribe indulge in reckless stunts. It is a battle royale as both sides tell each other to do something biologically impossible with their vehicles, in more polite words, of course. Maleeva Rebello reports

Illustration/Amit Bandre

Lane pain

Vivek Joshi
Bike rider
I have been taking my bike to work every day for the past one year. Car drivers, just do not respect bikers. They always come from wrong lanes and bikers who are in the right lane end up getting dashed. A week ago, I was riding my bike near my office at Worli when a woman came out of the wrong lane and banged into my bike. She refused to pay damage charges even though she was in the wrong; she only paid the traffic police a fine. I had to spend R 3,000 on bike repairs. Even though I was in the right lane; I had to bear the brunt of an accident and repairs. Fortunately, I wasn’t injured in the incident.

Vidhi Nagda
Car owner
Bikers have the habit of cutting lanes, braking all of a sudden and riding roughly. I have been driving for the last 1.5 years, and have had a terrible time due to bikers. Firstly, because I am a woman, I have had bikers literally stalk me around Dadar and Bandra. They come close to the car, whistle and try to talk to me. This kind of behaviour is harassment. They tend to cut lanes, do stunts and impress me. Driving late at night is torture sometimes as a result.

Speed sadness

Albert D’souza
Member of Call of Riders Biking Club, Mumbai
I have been riding my bike for the last six years. A bike is the faster vehicle as it is lighter and needs less space making it easy to get out of traffic, but car drivers don’t agree. Many drivers think they are driving Formula One cars and speed, not allowing bikes to overtake. As a member of a club, which promotes safe riding, errant sport car drivers make my blood boil. In spite of having rear view mirrors and seeing a biker, they still block the road with their fancy cars. They speed a lot too, which is dangerous. Stereotypically, people blame bikers, thinking that they speed, but even car drivers can be quite reckless.

Christopher Khan
Car owner
When I take my family shopping or for a party by car, the bikers always frighten me with their stunts. As a father, I want my family to be safe. Young men with their new sports bikes speed on the flyover and love to overtake. This is dangerous as they may ram into any vehicle or pedestrian. The Western Express Highway is a notorious venue for stunts. The traffic police do have checks, but these biker groups always seem to know when and where the checks are happening. I have often seen them turn back when they realise that the police are checking. The bikers do not wear helmets, which is dangerous  especially when on a two-wheeler.

Overtaking woes

Ganesh Kadam
Bike rider
I have been riding my bike for the last two years; car drivers always block the roads especially when the signal is on. I usually ride my bike to and from work so I use the Eastern Express Highway between Chembur and Vikhroli. Bikes have the advantage of being able to get ahead by going through small lanes, but cars never let bikes go ahead. Often, the car drivers have  their car window glasses up and so can’t hear the bike horn. I sometimes end up getting stuck behind cars; the drivers just refuse to let me overtake despite honking numerous times. This is a huge waste of time, as I get caught at all the signals behind the cars. 

Tarun Rohra
Car owner
I have been driving for the past six years and have got into fights with bikers because of overtaking. Even if there is no space, still, bikers try to squeeze their vehicles and get ahead which is often at the cost of damage to the car. A bike is meant for two people, but often three to five people sit on a bike and then the rider finds it very difficult to balance which makes the entire situation dangerous as they skid easily. Bike riders tend to talk on the phone while riding which is a distraction and is also very dangerous as they are unaware of the happenings on the road. Bikers need to be more careful as this reckless behaviour and overtaking is a threat not just for them but also for others on the roads.

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