As an enthusiast and a motorcycle riding Sikh for over 20 years now, I have always chosen to wear a helmet when riding. I have promoted the cause of safety, be it wearing proper riding equipment or championing safe road manners, whenever I can. To me, they are all connected and not to be considered in isolation.
So one day you just decide to skip the helmet because you’re only going to hop over to your friend’s place not more than 5km away. You’re riding along at a sedate 40kmph, which translates to 11 metres every second. A pedestrian about to cross the road sees you coming but decides that he can run across the road before you reach him. After all, you’re still 30 feet away. Unfortunately, that’s just 9.144 metres, which means you’re practically on top of him in less than a second! You hit the brakes with all you’ve got. You fall, or on a lucky day you don’t. Either case, the decision to not wear a helmet doesn’t seem so cool now, does it? As I said, it’s all connected.
Worse still, in making that horrendous error in judgment that could have hurt you both, the pedestrian has now lost more time. He’s missed the bus he had hoped he would take and will now have to wait for another hour with a heart full of fright. The same goes for the biker who runs a red light only to find himself at the end of immobile traffic across the intersection. It’s a stupid situation we find ourselves in day in, day out because we simply do not wish to learn that we will gain more (in this case time) by not crossing the road at an awkward moment or by not running the red light or by not blocking the car trying to turn into a lane.
It is this abject lack of road etiquette that makes it absolutely necessary for us to engage in dialogue about the state of our safety more often. Everyone, right from schools and colleges, needs to talk about road safety. The red light of the traffic signal that tells you to stop, does so for your own safety. Not because it has some strange fetish for making you wait. It is there to manage traffic effectively so that you can get home sooner. The sooner you realise this, the better things will be. A huge side benefit of this is that by choosing to be safe we will also be able to reduce violence on our streets, because poor traffic conditions cause road rage, which is the first step to violence.
“The red light of the traffic signal that tells you to stop, does so for your own safety. Not because it has some strange fetish for making you wait”
There are those who would blame poor infrastructure. Sure, we need better roads but hey, today’s roads aren’t as bad as they used to be a few years ago. The highways are smoother, there are more flyovers than ever and each is wider than the one before it. Most of the time, the problem is us and our desire to beat a system that doesn’t need to be defeated. There are others who would advocate police presence. But remember all the times you’ve traveled abroad. How many times did you see a traffic cop waving a baton menacingly? You didn’t, because the people, the road users have evolved to a point where the traffic is self-regulated. Which is how it should be. And the only way we will get there too is by constantly talking about safety until it is ingrained in our psyche.