Bike taxi services ignore rider safety

By DECCAN CHRONICLE | Srikanth Godavarthi

25 September 2022

HYDERABAD: A doctor riding pillion on an Ola bike suffered head injuries after the two-wheeler was hit by a car in Malakpet on Tuesday night. While the rider (captain) received only minor injuries, Dr Shravani was hospitalised and died on Saturday. Police said Dr Shravani was not wearing a helmet when the hit-and-run occurred. The incident raised concern over the safety of pillion riders using the ride-sharing bike services.

A main worry with bike-sharing is about the non-wearing of helmets. Many commuters, particularly techies, are making use of the bike taxi service because it provides a quick, easy and economical way to avail seamless, last-mile connectivity. Most ride-sharing aggregators pledge on their websites to provide branded or ISI certified helmets to pillionriders, many have not been doing this.

Deccan Chronicle spoke to pillion-riders who use bike taxi services such as Ola, Rapido and Uber to find out how things were. According to the rules of the bike taxi aggregators, it is the rider's (captain’s) responsibility to provide the passenger with a helmet. The captains rarely keep an extra helmet for the pillion rider.

“I often take Ola bike rides from my residence to the workplace. There were times I was not given a helmet. Sometimes, even the Ola captain did not himself wear a helmet. Recently, when I booked an Ola bike taxi from my house to the Secunderabad station, the Ola driver did not wear a helmet. I have not been offered a helmet at least five out of ten times,” said Jyothi Sudha, who works for a pharma firm. Everyone riding a bike is required to wear protective headgear under Section 129 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.

The bike taxi companies were asked by the traffic police to make sure the rule is followed. However, enforcement is lax. The traffic police are taking it easy or are advised to be so. Around 120 of the 237 road fatalities in the city in 2020 were due to head injuries – caused by riders falling off motorcycles or scooters — according to the city traffic police.

“I do not prefer cabs that plod through the traffic jams and opt for bikes that reach me to the destination fast. I usually utilise the Ola, Rapido or Uber services to move around. They are more convenient, reasonably priced, and faster to reach my location. I've been offered a helmet only a few times,” claimed Ali Enuke Fortunatus Akudinanwa, a Nigerian student at Osmania University majoring in computer sciences.

He said an occasion he was offered a helmet was when the captain wanted to avoid the traffic police filing a challan. He however turned down the bike rider’s offer because he felt uncomfortable using it and was worried about infection. Worse, the helmets used by different persons have an unbearable smell, he said.

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