It’s a race for the fastest and the most furious with the winner vrooming away on his opponent’s vehicle. And we’re not talking about the next installment of Fast and Furious.
Illegal races, inspired by movies and video games, take place in several parts of the city post-midnight. The only difference is that instead of cars, young men race on their bikes with the loser walking home empty-handed.
Action begins post 1am every Monday night. The state is set with utmost care – point one on the checklist is eluding the police. The racing circuits are carefully planned to avoid police check posts for which recces are done. A biker in their early twenties, who races almost every week, said the route changes often.
The illegal races usually take place on Monday nights, a former member of a bikers’ group told Hindustan Times. The rules of the game are strictly followed. Before the race begins, the two participants are given pink-coloured chits, sealing the deal that the loser gives away his bike to the winner.
“Very often, plans change last minute,” said Ranjit Mane (name changed to protect identity). “My latest race was from Kherwadi flyover to the airport and back. Because of police presence on the roads, we race only after the nakabandi hours,” he added.
Mane said some groups start from Borivli and head towards Siddhivinayak temple. After visiting the temple, the bikers visit Mahim Dargah. From Mahim, they head to the Western Express Highway. There is a chance of encountering cops in Bandra (East) so the races begin only after the policemen leave.
At times, the bikers race for cash. “If the racers do not use the pink chits, where they bet their two-wheelers, they race for money. Bets are placed and the loser shells out anywhere between Rs 5,000 and Rs 25,000 per race,” said N More, who attends the racing events.
The newly-opened Kherwadi flyover is a favoured spot for the errant riders. Bandra Reclamation has been our favourite for a decade now, admits another biker, who still frequents the illegal racing events. Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road is another spot where the bikers race often, he added. The races attract bikers from as far as Thane and Navi Mumbai.
A 24-year-old resident of Borivli, who is a member of a bikers’ group, said, “At present, there are only about three active groups in the city. After two participants are chosen, other bikers are also invited to join in. Even guests can take part. We race for sheer thrill; nothing else matters.”
While the bikers said they continue to race, an officer from Mumbai traffic police said stringent steps have deterred speeding bikers and motorists. However, the statistics present a different picture. Last year 8, 693 cases of rash driving – highest in the last seven years – were registered. In the first six months of this year, 6,553 cases of rash driving were registered.
This menace is not new, said an official from the traffic police, adding various measures have been to curb illegal racing. One of them included arresting the bikers under IPC section 279 (rash driving) replacing the former practice of penalising them and letting them go after a minimal fine of Rs 500.