Riding motorbike on footpaths in the capital has become rampant, leading to many accidents. How to address the problem?

— New Age photo

— New Age photo

Most motorbike riders drive their bikes according to their whims. They always try to move fast disregarding traffic rules. For this reason law enforcers look the other way. I read in the newspaper some days ago that the High Court had issued an order to stop motorbikes plying footpaths. It also gave an order to punish those who are violating the court order. But our law enforcers have not enforced relevant rules, in this regard, in compliance with the order. Motor-bike riders are, therefore, plying footpaths violating the court order.
I ask the department concerned whether it will take necessary action to stop it. Of course, we all should follow the traffic rules as conscious citizens. But law enforcers need to do their duty properly to see that rules are not violated by anybody. It any motorbike rider violates any rules and passes through foot-paths, we all should act in a body to hand over the aberrant rider to the police.
I request our government to ask the department concerned to implement the court order strictly.
Roads are for vehicles and footpaths are meant for pedestrians. But in Dhaka and other cities traffic congestion is commonplace due to rampant violation of traffic rules. As we have grown used to violation of traffic rules things are becoming worse day by day. Now we find motorbikes in large numbers plying both the streets and footpaths, putting the lives of pedestrians at risk. Notably, most of the riders are not well-experienced to ride properly. As a result, accidents occur almost every day. When pedestrians walk along the foot-paths motorbike riders are found to blow their whistles from behind taking the pedestrians by surprise. Sometimes, pedestrians also sustain severe injuries falling down to the ground after being dashed by these errant riders. Motor-bikers have no right to use footpaths as they are not meant for them. But why do motorbikes ply these paths? Authorities concerned, especially law enforcers, should answer this question. The government has formulated traffic rules so that traffic can move smoothly through thoroughfares and other roads including footpaths. But none cares to follow these rules for lack of enforcement of traffic rules by the authorities.
Mobile courts under the supervision of a magistrate should be deployed on city roads on a regular basis to rid the roads of traffic congestion and free the footpaths of motorbikes. However, the government seemingly fails to understand that sporadic drives of this sort cannot ward off the menace from motorbikes; it will require sustained round-the-year actions and surveillance. Errant motor-bikers also need to be prosecuted efficiently and punished exemplarily. Everyone, irrespective of cast, creed, religion, rank and status, needs to follow relevant rules respecting the court order.
Now it seems that the government is not for the people, but people are for the government’s existence; mayor is not for the city, but the city is for a mayor’s wellbeing; police are not for people’s security, but people are their source of wealth; laws are not meant to ensure people’s security, they are meant to buttress the honour of cabinet members. We, the ordinary people, are thus helpless. However, the government needs to look into the matter and take necessary steps as soon as possible.
Mr Khaled
Uttara, Dhaka
***
It is indeed alarming that riding motorbikes on footpaths has become rampant in Dhaka city nowadays. Almost every day there are incidents of road accident because of motorbikes plying the footpaths. According to a study, 58 per cent of road accidents in the city take place due to pedestrians being knocked down by motorbikes. According to traffic rules, footpaths are made for pedestrians only. So any sort of vehicular movement along any footpath puts public lives at risk. City streets have become very dangerous for pedestrians these days and, therefore, they are the people who remain most vulnerable there. At present it is almost difficult to walk through footpaths due to rampant movement of motorbikes along these paths. It would not be an exaggeration to say that now Dhaka city has become an unfriendly city to the pedestrians. Moreover, all the sidewalks of the city have been taken over either by shops and vendors and by the motorcyclists.
Pedestrians have been suffering from this nuisance for a long time. Even a High Court directive has not been able to keep the bikers off the footpaths. In the absence of enforcement of traffic rules motorbike riders use the footpaths of their own free will making it difficult for the pedestrians to walk on these paths. Though taking action against the motor-bikers is the responsibility of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police but the Dhaka Metropolitan Police and its traffic wing pay no attention to the violation of traffic laws. Most of these law enforcers have a tendency to remain a silent spectator of any gross violation of traffic rules. It is also an unpalatable truth that we do not have adequate number of law enforcers or sufficient police personnel who can take action against such violation of rules. Regrettably, it seems that the authorities concerned have forgotten that the sidewalks are for the pedestrians. According to law, motorcyclists cannot use sidewalks as their freeway. On March 5, 2012, the High Court asked the government to take necessary steps to free all footpaths and sidewalks in the capital of motorcycles and other vehicles. But the government and, for that matter, the law enforcers have failed to act accordingly in compliance with the court order. It is, therefore, no surprise that motor-bikers are not only ignoring the court order but also denying the pedestrians their right to use the sidewalks or footpaths. Motorcyclists as well as vehicle drivers encroach on the sidewalks especially during traffic congestion. So it can be assumed that the order of the court has fallen on deaf ears as there is no sign of implementing the court order yet.
However it is high time to address this problem properly. According to sources in the traffic police department, six to seven out of the every ten motorcycles have no registration in Dhaka city. So it is difficult for the department to trace the motorcycles violating the traffic rules. It is a necessity now that all should put forth their concerted efforts to resolve the problem at any cost. We have two elected city mayors in Dhaka city. Both Dhaka North City Corporation and Dhaka South City Corporation are empowered to ensure safe movement of city dwellers through streets and footpaths. Moreover, the government should focus on both expansion of roads and diverse modes of transport. Traffic rules should be implemented properly. Dhaka Metropolitan Police department should enforce all traffic laws stringently. Besides, the government should arrange sufficient number of segregated pathways for pedestrians and non-motorised vehicles and thus remove all the obstacles to free movement of pedestrians through the existing walkways. Mobile courts should be operated regularly to fine the culprits violating laws intentionally. Non-registered motorbikes should be brought under registration. Most importantly, awareness should be raised among the people. Authorities have to shoulder responsibilities and take proper steps to solve this problem. These steps will help us to have a pedestrian-friendly and safe Dhaka city in no time.
Naim Ebna Rahman
Development Studies
University of Dhaka, Dhaka
***
Motorbikes are now everywhere — on roads, streets and even on footpaths. They ply the roads at a speed so high that it will give one the impression that they do not bother to comply with traffic rules and regulations. When we move through footpaths, we, therefore, do not know whether we are destined to meet with any accident or not. We can never know whether a motorcycle, coming from a wrong direction, is going to knock us down. Motorcycles, these days, have turned out to be a new hazard for pedestrians. The menace is being faced not only in Dhaka but also in other district towns and urban centres.
What takes us by surprise is the way the law enforcers ignore the motorbike riders. Law enforcers seem to whisper into the ears of errant riders that they can ride as they wish and that they are posted there just to save them from any hazard.’ No surprise, traffic signals are, thus, being ignored by most of the motorcyclists. They drive their bikes faster being encouraged by the lackadaisical attitude of the law enforcers. Motorcycles are often found intruding into the narrow spaces between the rickshaws and the buses, running the risk of being smashed. They also ignore the traffic signals just under the very nose of law enforcers. Motorcycle accidents are very tragic and thus upsetting events. Serious injuries in the body and even death are often the result of such tragic accidents. According to a recent study, approximately one out of every five is actually lucky enough to come out with just minor bumps and bruises.
The lack of a protective barrier between the driver and the road ultimately leaves motorcyclists in a very vulnerable position. There are several common causes of motorcycle accidents, of which the most frequent, and clearly the predominant cause, seems to be that other motorists simply do not recognise motorcycles in dense traffic.
It has also been suggested that motorcyclists are 27 times more likely to die in a collision than are passengers of the other motor vehicles and they are also five times more likely to sustain some injury. There are many other causes of motorcycle accidents that occur quite frequently. One of the causes is that many motorcyclists are inexperienced and simply do not know the limitations of their machine. Hence, these new riders push their motorcycles to their threshold, which, in most cases, far exceed the speed limit. This is another cause of motorcycle accidents. Of course, experienced drivers are also guilty of operating their machines beyond the legal maximum speed. Many motorcyclists love the feel of the wind blowing through their hair, the freedom of the open road and the thrill of going at a great speed but, traveling at velocities over the speed limit can have dire consequences. A simple slip of the wheel or an unexpected obstacle in front of the motorcycle can send the rider reeling out of control. Thus, high speed can be very dangerous and is often the cause of motorcycle accidents.
Another common cause of motorcycle accidents is the motorcyclist’s negligence. There are other additional agents that could cause bodily harm after the initial accident. Fuel leakage and spills in the post-crash phase can introduce a fire hazard, which is common in approximately 60 percent of all accident sites in foreign countries.
The traffic department needs to handle this new menace urgently. It can organise a ‘motorcycle week’ to create mass awareness about do’s and don’ts while riding motorbikes. Motorcyclists need to be asked to follow traffic rules as strictly as the drivers of other vehicles. They need to be warned that they do not have any right to move with their bikes along footpaths.
According to the Accident Research Centre at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, around 58 per cent of traffic accidents that take place in the city involve pedestrians and motorcycle accidents accounted for about 14 per cent of the road accidents in 2013, up from three per cent in 1998. It was found that motorcycles were three times more risky in causing fatal accidents than four-wheeler vehicles, for its unstable and unshielded feature. Notably, unregistered motorcycles and motorcyclists without having licence are two important causes of road traffic fatalities.
Section 85 (1) of the ‘Motor Vehicles Ordinance 1983’ stipulates how to ride a motorbike in public place. It says,
‘No person shall drive a motor vehicle or cause or allow a motor vehicle to be driven in any public place at a speed exceeding the maximum speed fixed for the vehicle by or under this ordinance or under any law.’
Section 143 of the same act provides punishment for driving dangerously and recklessly in public place. It says,
‘Whoever drives a motor vehicle at a speed or in a  manner which is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances of the case including the nature, condition and use of the place where the vehicle is driven and the amount of traffic which actually is at the time or which might reasonably be expected to be in the place, shall be punishable on a first conviction for the offence with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to Tk five hundred, and his driving license shall be suspended for a specified period, and for a subsequent offence if committed within three years of the commission of the previous offence with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to Tk one thousand, or with both, and his driving license shall be suspended for a period not exceeding one month.’
Riding motorbikes through footpaths is obviously illegal. To reduce the number of road accidents traffic rules need to enforced to the letter and in spirit by the traffic department.
Shabnam Talukder Barsha
School of Law
BRAC University,
Dhaka, Bangladesh

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