I have only just started discovering what the cyclists on our roads experience, that is because somewhere in the recesses of my memory lies the experiences of my youth; when in school and college one first rode on the rear carrier or the cross bar of the bike ridden by a domestic employee, then one graduated to one’s own 2 wheels with pedal power; later in college to be replaced by 2 wheels driven by a 200 cc petrol engine, my trusty Triumph Tiger Cub.
During all those years on 2 wheels, we youngsters not only respected the laws of the road, by were also respected by other road users; we had lights on our bikes and reflectors on the rear mud guards, double-savaree was not permitted, so the 2nd rider would jump off the minute a constable came into view! Otherwise, it meant one or a number of punishments; first timers were made to be a murga on the side of the road till the cop felt you had learnt your lesson, repeat offenders would have the air let out of the tires and made murgas, while hardened offenders would actually end up at the police stations!!!
The tongas in those days were the main form of transport, and even they were strictly monitored, like, their oil lamps had to be lit before sunset, and they were challaned for over loading goods or people, yes! They would attempt that to make a few extra rupees.
Vehicle drivers were cautious in the way they drove their machines, from army trucks to motorbikes and everything in between. So, we the cyclists felt comfortable riding around all over the city without the slightest fear of being hit by any other road user, not that it never happened, mind you.
So, recently I took the plunge and acquired a bicycle! And took to the roads of the Lahore Cantonment, to begin a new road experience; what I have encountered and concluded is that the cyclist is the most vulnerable of all the road users! For starters they should have been born with an additional set of eyes at the back of their heads! Then they have to forget that there are rules that every user abides by, and remember that the rules of the jungle apply!
I have concluded that I need to share with the reader my conclusions and expose the worst offenders on the roads, they are listed below in and ascending order worst at the top.
- Drivers of Public/Private Carrier vehicles from mini pickups/buses to large trucks/buses
- Vehicle drivers using cell phones while they drive
- Employed drivers of private cars/vans
- Youngsters, some even under age, on m’ bikes/cars
- Entire families of 4-6 individuals on 1 m’ bike
- Female learner drivers
- Elderly drivers
- The rest who carry out conversations like they are in their drawing rooms totally oblivious of the developing situations on the roads
It is with much sadness that I have to admit that my decision to use a bicycle for short trips around the Cantonment was not a good one so I am hanging up my helmet and my safety vest for now! But I do want to stress that as a result of this eye opening experience I very much wish to be part of a movement to force the Authorities to formulate a stricter modus operandi to manage the traffic on the roads.
May I humbly suggest that they take a leaf out of the Emirates Police’s book? I have lived there, so I know! They run their own driving school, that way they ensure that the standards and regulations are maintained to a level that guarantees drivers have the ability and skills to use their roads!
So far the track record of the Highway/Motorway Police is very impressive! And I would very seriously suggest that they be given the responsibility and task, country-wide, to set up driving schools to ensure that future drivers are trained to obey the Laws and rules as well as create awareness in them, that courtesy on the roads is mutual!
In addition to that I suggest that all violators henceforth not only be fined but forced to take up a refresher course to ensure they learn what they were never taught in the first place! And thereby qualify to retain their licenses. It is only then that we can look forward to a better driving environment and perhaps my grand children will be able to dust off and use my helmet and safety vest to ride on a bicycle with some safety!