How safe is cycling, ask Mumbaikars after Avtar Saini’s death? - Hindustan Times
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How safe is cycling, ask Mumbaikars after Avtar Saini’s death?

By Ismat Tahseen
Mar 01, 2024 03:16 PM IST

With the ex-Intel head killed by a speeding cab in Navi Mumbai, the city's cyclists share the perils they face when riding on the roads.

Mumbai may aspire to be the Cycling Capital of India, but when it comes down to ground- level, there is a long way to go, in terms of infrastructure and safety. Case in point the recent death of ex-Intel country head, Avtar Saini (68), who was killed after a speeding cab hit him while he was cycling on Palm Beach Road, Navi Mumbai. The fatal accident is one in a list of many that continue to occur in the city, as Firoza Dadan, Mumbai’s first bicycle mayor states: “Unfortunately, we see drivers increasingly being sleep deprived, who end up dozing at the wheel and losing control of the vehicle.”

Avtar Saini, former Intel India country head, was killed after a speeding cab hit him while he was cycling in Navi Mumbai(Instagram)
Avtar Saini, former Intel India country head, was killed after a speeding cab hit him while he was cycling in Navi Mumbai(Instagram)

Dangers: Drivers asleep at the wheel, open roads, stray dog attacks

Talking about the accident, Firoza adds, “Avtar had his helmet on and was in a group, which is also something I always advise cyclists to do because when you ride in a group, especially in the mornings when there is speeding traffic, if you are solo there is no second help for you. Also, in the wee hours, if there is a hit-and-run someone else present can vouch for what happened. The roads are so clear pre-dawn so drivers tend to speed and we see most of the accidents happening around junctions.”

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Firoza Dadan, Mumbai city's first Bicycle Mayor has been stressing on cyclists' safety for a long while
Firoza Dadan, Mumbai city's first Bicycle Mayor has been stressing on cyclists' safety for a long while

She outlines another issue faced by cyclists. “Another problem is when stray dogs attack from the left side, you immediately tend to move onto the right side, putting you right in the path of speeding vehicular traffic, so be in a group.”

Potholes, no proper signals spell disaster

Insurance professional and cyclist from Chembur Anita Gupta who was in the same cyclists’ group as Avtar Saini, says, “Avtar’s death was shocking for us as he was always a very cautious rider. As was his habit, he had his full gear on. It made us think, “If this can happen to him, what about others?’.”

Outlining a key risk area for their frat, she says, “So many roads are in the city are in a bad state, making it risky for us cyclists. Not only do potholes pose a danger, so do manhole covers that are placed badly.” She adds, “The other issue is that taxi and private vehicle drivers do not give a proper signal before making a turn, which does not alert the cyclist. We are sharing the same road as there is no separate space for us, so they should keep enough distance from cyclists, honk and give enough indication when say, makng a turn, making it safe for both.”

Highways must have dedicated cycling tracks

Mumbai has witnessed to a series of cycling mishaps, over the time. Businessman and avid cyclist Brijesh Singh of the Mulund riders club has witnessed accidents happen with cyclists shares a few of them.

Brijesh Singh has witnessed quite a few accidents happen to cyclists in Mumbai
Brijesh Singh has witnessed quite a few accidents happen to cyclists in Mumbai

“Once, at the Mulund-Airoli flyover when one of our group of riders attempted to go onto the flyover when a car suddenly rammed into him. He died on the spot. In another incident, three cyclists were on the highway when a tempo came from behind and suddenly swerved and crashed into them, leaving them with grievous injuries.” For someone, who has been riding for a decade, he has a plea: “We must have dedicated cycling tracks on the highways and cyclists, too should always wear reflective gear.”

Be visible to others, avoid hearing music when you ride

While entrepreneur Pankit Fariya believes that accidents like this happens, it dissuades and scares first-timers and others new to it, from taking up cycling, Chetan Shah, president of the Mumbai Cycling Enthusiasts, shares advice for cyclists.

Ensure you have right gear on and are visible to motorists, advises Chetan Shah
Ensure you have right gear on and are visible to motorists, advises Chetan Shah

“Wear all the right gear and ensure you are visible to motorists. Whenever you are stopping or making a turn, indicate to fellow riders behind, as I have seen so many cyclists also colliding with each other. While many accidents do not happen due to speeding, my advice is go slow. Cyclists also ride with earbuds on and hear music which prove to be fatal. Have all your attention on the road as you ride.”

Always carry a cyclist’s ID with the blood group and emergency contact. Also, always ride in a group and maintain safe distance from vehicles

- Firoza Dadan, Mumbai’s first bicycle mayor

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