Ride it safe!

Anukriti Sharma
Sunday, 30 July 2017

The recent death of biker Jagruti Hogale draws our attention to the condition of roads, traffic rules and what precautions bikers must keep in mind

Recently, RJ Malishka released a song, which went viral, questioning civic issues like the poor condition of roads and potholes that are making travelling a hellish experience for commuters. In a very unfortunate incident, young biker Jagruti Hogale, while riding her bike, fell and was crushed by a truck when she tried to swerve to avoid hitting a pothole on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway on Jawhar-Dahanu road in Palghar district on July 23. In monsoon, roads do get slippery. Add to that the poor maintenance of roads, which makes it all the more hazardous to drive. We talk to a few women bikers to know about their experiences and what kind of precautions one can take to have a safe ride. 

There has been a lot said about how Hogale couldn’t anticipate a pothole in the middle of the road because of excessive water which prompted her fall. Madhuri Munjwani, who has been a part of the Bikerni group since 2013 and is the admin of the Mumbai Chapter since 2016, was a close friend of Hogale. She has been on various trips with the group and feels that the most important part of the trip is to be constantly aware and wear riding gear no matter what. She shares, “First of all, the reports that state that Jagrati should have taken a left or right are baseless. The reality is that there was a pothole which was covered under a lot of water, which caused her to jump and fall. It is really unfortunate.”

Munjwani further says, “The roads need to be well maintained first, only then can we guide the citizens to drive safely. People in Dubai drive at a speed limit of 120 kph and they have five to six lanes and you can’t really break the rules in that case. Even the people maintain their cars really well so why can’t we follow the same here?”

Sunita Kunjeer, who rides a Harley Davidson, has been a biker since the past 22 years. Driven by passion, she is a part of the Harley Davidson Pune Chapter and has been successfully breaking barriers in the male-dominated sport. Talking about how bikers still have to rely on the old Mumbai-Pune Highway to commute since they are not allowed to ride on the Expressway. Kunjeer says, “You can’t ride too slow because you are worried that someone will hit you from behind. And if you go too fast, you are worried about the cattle that might come in front of you. There are no proper barricades for cattle. In Haryana, there is a flyover in Rohtak which has a slight bend but if you tilt your bike, you don’t expect a speed breaker ahead as well. So we don’t really have ‘good’ roads here.”

Traffic rules 
Gauri Zavar has been a part of the Bikerni group from the past three years but has been an avid biker since Std 8. She calls the experience of being associated with the group as a wonderful journey where she can connect with like-minded people and talk about bikes, safety, family and much more at length. She raises a relevant question over the markings on speed breakers. Says she,  “Speed breakers are never marked properly and even if they are marked, the paint doesn’t last a lifetime. So obviously you need to repaint them. Certain areas don’t even have proper road lights or signs which obviously is troublesome, especially during monsoon. Also, if road work is going on, the ‘Work in Progress’ sign should be put 500 m ahead so that people can gauge the scenario and avoid an accident.” 

But the government alone cannot be blamed for all accidents. Zavar feels that a lot of people don’t follow common traffic rules like wearing a helmet or indulge in rash driving. Following these simple rules can help them avoid accidents.”

Kunjeer cannot agree more. She says that drivers too behave irresponsibly a lot of times. “People drive on the wrong side of the road with their lights on. Now even if you want to question them for doing that, they will ask ‘Aapne light nahi dekha kya?”

Safety first 
All said and done, our safety should be our priority. Munjwani says, ““Never leave your home without your riding gear and helmet. Even if you are not wearing proper shoes, at least cover yourself till your ankles so that you don’t suffer any injury. As a rider, step on the road only if you are sure about it. We usually ask newcomers if they are sure about riding all the way otherwise we make them sit as pillion so that they can experience the road first.”

One basic rule that riders can remember is that all roads are not racing tracks so they needn’t drive fast and furious. Says Zavar, “You must know your vehicle and the roads you are driving on. There can be oil spill and the rain during monsoon can make it worse so your speed shouldn’t exceed the specified limit. If you are wearing your riding gear, obviously the damage will be minimum.”

Kunjeer feels that your safety is in your own hand and it lies in simple things like buying a good quality helmet. She says, “Don’t buy it for the sake of buying it. It should be strong enough to save you when you fall. People wear helmets only to save themselves from the police and remove it once they go past them. Also, follow simple rules like stop at the traffic signal.”

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