Why Mumbai cops are unable to put brakes on stunt bikers
Mumbai police's watch-from-the-sidelines approach to slamming the brakes on speed buffs pronounced the death of an elderly woman in Wadala on Wednesday night, and brought six others -- three children and three women - at close quarters with it.
Cops claim they have done all they can to stop bikers from speeding on roads, but all their efforts have fallen flat. They say the peril involved in trying to catch hold of speedsters, unlike pursuing gangsters and terrorists, is unique, since giving chase to or force-stopping the riders can lead to casualties.
So the policemen take snapshots of the bikers in the hope of inspiring some fear of the authorities, but ask any commuter how well that has worked as a deterrent.
Hotspots for racers
A few retired officers of the force, though, believe a way ought to be found to rein in zipping bikers, and offer suggestions. “If they cannot be stopped, they can be easily obstructed. There have to be nakabandis on every junction in the affected areas to slow them down. The police cannot excuse itself by saying it is unable to match their speed. They should look for ideas to catch them. Putting them behind bars and confiscating their vehicles won’t make a difference as they will get out on bail and be back on the road,” said YC Pawar, former joint commissioner of police (law and order).
According to the police, the expansive roads at Marine Drive, Western Express Highway, Chembur Freeway, Prabhadevi Road and Worli Sea Face are the favoured haunts of these errant riders.
But Bandra’s Kherwadi junction, a hub for highway racers, is the hotspot. It is the widest road in the city and the road has no traffic signal till Dahisar check naka. Police officials claim that stopping bikers at this junction will bring traffic on all of Western Express Highway to a crawl. They blame the administration for not providing equipment such as traffic enforcement cameras, like the ones abroad where speeding motorists are caught on high-speed camera.
To this, another retired police officer responded, “There are specific times when bike races take place, probably in wee hours. The police can easily barricade the highway at this time. This will not only put an end to speeding bikers but also help reduce the number of accidents involving three- and four-wheelers.”
‘Lost four constables’
DCP Ravindra Shisve (Zone I), in charge of Marine Drive, said, “We lost four constables last year because they tried to stop speeding vehicles. Now we have completely banned bikers from the extreme end of Queen’s Necklace. We have asked officials to click photos of the accused after they cross nakabandi to ensure they do not speed till the next signal.”
He added, “From Mahim to Dadar, all police stations carry out nakabandis from midnight to 4 am. In the month of September itself, we booked and arrested 19 people and seized their bikes.”
DCP Dhananjay Kulkarni of Zone V said, “Devotees walk to Siddhivinayak Temple in hordes on Monday night, and bikers zooming on the roads are very dangerous. At times, chain snatchers join in. Earlier, we used to book them under the Motor Vehicles Acts but now we register cases against them and seize their bikes to deter them from repeating the offence,” said Kulkarni.
Joint Commissioner of Police Vivek Phansalkar, “It’s not only the police’s job. Parents and guardians of errant bikers also need to take note why their child is heading out with a bike late in the night. Attitudinal and behavioural change is needed. Counselling may help. We have had a meeting with the joint commissioner (law and order) and it has been decided that we will continue to book rash drivers.”
Mostly, it’s teenagers with a craze for bikes who drive rashly. If we set up CCTV cameras for each lane, I am sure the rash drivers will drastically slow down, causing no damage to pedestrians.
-- mihir Joshi, biker from Andheri
People drive rashly because Indian cinema shows rash drivers as ‘dudes’ and promotes it as a way to impress girls. I have observed young boys practising stunts and irresponsible driving to perfection.
-- Vinit Shah, biker from Kandivli
In Bandra, almost every night, bikers hold races, which is very risky for pedestrians. I don’t allow my family members to leave home after 9, as it’s race time.
-- Vinod Hiwalkar, Bandra resident
I’ve noticed that the need to rush has increased. Bikers compete with each other and end up knocking over pedestrians or ramming into footpaths. This can stop if there are strict rules against lane-cutting.
-- Kuber Waghle, Vile Parle