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Saturday, January 22, 2005

Helmets should not be made compulsory for two-wheeler riders in Pune

Category: Misc. Pune city.

Helmets are going to be made complusory for two-wheeler riders in Pune. The date for implementing the order is not finalised. It will be this month itself.

The case for and against helmets has cropped up again, after four years. The last time around, helmets were made compulsory for two-wheeler riders in Nov. 2000. The helmet rule lasted for a couple of months before being quashed by the court.

I don't think helmets should be made compulsory for two-wheeler riders in Pune.
The reasons being:

- Pot-holed roads, uneven speed-breakers, and slow moving traffic will mean that wearing a helmet will be a liability rather than an asset.
- One has to carry it around.
- Uncomfortable in summer
- Curtails freedom
- It will be an excuse for 'traffic policemen' to make money, by catching people who aren't wearing one.
- I don't like a helmet. I like the wind on my face.

I oppose the 'helmet rule' in Pune.

Instead of coming up with such gimmicks, they should improve the infrastructure of the city.

If at all they make helmets compulsory after a week or two; from where are they going to get helmets for 30 lakh people? Pune is a two-wheeler city. Each middle-class household has atleast one two-wheeler, some middle-class households have two or more two-wheelers. If the 'helmet' rule is made compulsory, then there will definitely be a shortage of helmets, people will buy sub-standard helmets from the street sellers, and risk chances of an injury.

This rule was implemented before, and it didn't work. It is going to be implemented again, and it won't work. A two-wheeler city doesn't need helmets; it needs proper concrete or tar roads, with working street lights, operating traffic signals, and education on traffic rules.

What do they want to achieve by making 30 lakh people wear helmets overnight?

Think of the practical difficulties.

- You are on your way home from work, and you want to stop at a roadside joint, for a cup of hot tea and vada pav, but wait, you can't, there's no place to keep your helmet.
- You've finally found parking space, and you're getting late for lunch, there's a single table in a crowded restaurant, but no, you can't sit and order, as there's no place to keep your helmet.
- You meet a friend and give him a lift, and you're fined by the traffic policeman, the pillion rider isn't wearing a helmet.
- You want to go for a walk on M.G. Road with your gal, instead of holding her hand, you've to hold a helmet!
- You want to enjoy the morning breeze on your face, but no, you can't as you've got to wear a helmet.
- You're sweating profusely in the 42 deg. C heat of summer, and you can't remove your helmet.
- You want to grab a quick bite on your way to work, but can't stand and eat as there's no place to keep the helmet.

A solution would be to get a helmet lock for the bike. But why should I, if I don't want to. I don't want to wear a helmet. It curtails my freedom.

Let's see what decision is taken in this matter. There are a lot of to-and-fro arguments, with leading doctors making a case against helmets, attributing neck injuries due to stress on the muscles from awkward bumps, pot-holed roads, and speed-breakers. Some local politicians are against the rule, and the ruling party is for the rule.

My question is, what is the use of a helmet, when people don't follow traffic rules?
Improve the infrastructure, educate people, bring about a sense of civic responsibility; rather than frivolously arguing for helmets. Wearing a helmet is not a panacea, not a universal remedy, for preventing accidents.

I'm not going to buy a helmet. I will use someone's helmet for a day or two, to avoid paying a fine, and the rule will fizzle out. I hope it does.

Politicians know how to make life complicated for people. There are so many things to do, to improve the city, and all they can think of is an absurd compulsory helmet rule.

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