Cyclist's accident sheds light on perils of Mumbai's streets: Urgent action needed for safer cycling infrastructure

Cyclist's accident sheds light on perils of Mumbai's streets: Urgent action needed for safer cycling infrastructure

The cyclist sustained injuries to his face, miraculously missing his eye.

Ashutosh M ShuklaUpdated: Thursday, May 11, 2023, 11:08 AM IST
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Cyclist's accident sheds light on perils of Mumbai's streets: Urgent action needed for safer cycling infrastructure | FPJ

Mumbai: The unfriendly streets of Mumbai don’t discriminate between pedestrians and cyclists. Not just the lack of dedicated cycle paths, the iron grills on drains on some stretches are a hurdle not to be taken lightly. Recently, an avid cyclist met with a serious accident when a wheel of his bicycle got stuck in one such grill at BG Kher Marg between Malabar Hill and Kemps Corner.

The cyclist, Premal Vashani, sustained injuries to his face, miraculously missing his eye. Vashani has been cycling for the past 10 years on city roads. On May 1, he swerved to the left to avoid vehicles coming from the right as BG Kher Marg merges with another road before the Kemps Corner signal. However, a wheel got stuck in a gaping space in the drain grill and he fell face first.

Cyclists raise questions with BMC

Cyclists are now asking the BMC why grills have been placed vertically in the direction of the traffic. The BMC, for its part, said it has narrowed the gap to avoid any further mishaps.

A professional photographer and cinematographer, Vashani was out of work for two days after the accident and could not hold or use his camera owing to injuries to his right hand and a finger. 

A resident of Vile Parle, Vashani said, “Every morning, at 5.45am, we gather at Tulip Star hotel and take different routes. Some days it is Worli and NCPA, and on other days it is Mulund and even Airoli. We plan longer circuits on our days off. On May 1, we planned a trip to the south side and were returning when the accident happened. Thankfully, there were doctors in the group so I had immediate help and was sent to a hospital.”

Vashani bought his bicycle from another avid cyclist for Rs1 lakh; it originally cost Rs3.5 lakh. Its wheel is about 25mm and he will need to spend nearly Rs30,000 for a new oneS. “Our bicycles have carbon bodies and thin, aluminium wheels. Another cyclist had tweeted the issue and tagged the BMC. Back on my feet, I retweeted the post,” said Vashani. 

“When they cover drains, they need to think about two wheelers and bicycles as well and not just four-wheelers,” said Dr Ami Deokar, the doctor who administered help after Vashani fell. She said the road slopes downward and the cycle’s speed increases with body weight. Thankfully, there were no cars and Vashani, an experienced cyclist, was fully equipped with safety gear, including the helmet.

Cyclist's accident sheds light on perils of Mumbai's streets: Urgent action needed for safer cycling infrastructure

Cyclist's accident sheds light on perils of Mumbai's streets: Urgent action needed for safer cycling infrastructure | FPJ

Accident has highlighted need for better roads

The accident, said the cyclists, has highlighted the need for better road planning with more and more Mumbaikars taking to the sport for reasons ranging from exercise, joy rides and lowering carbon footprint. At present there are nearly 25 regular cycling groups in Mumbai.

“There are similar iron gutter grills near Milan Subway, Vile Parle, DN Road and Vashi, and on many other new bridges. “At some places we cannot just go forward seated on our bicycle. These we know so we avoid,” said Amish Vora, who tweeted Vashani’s accident and is part of the ‘Fast & Furious’ cycling group. 

Vora said he encountered a similar problem near Jaslok Hospital once but could evade it luckily. “It is a road every cyclist takes to come to south Mumbai. I got a very good response from the BMC when I tagged them. They made the grills horizontal within four to five days of tweeting. How difficult is it for them to keep it horizontal at the planning stage?” he said.

A senior D-ward official said that assistant municipal commissioner is on leave and the road is with the Central roads department. “We narrowed the gap four days ago so no more accidents occur. We will check again if the gap needs to be narrowed further,” said an assistant engineer. The FPJ tried contacting the chief engineer for the policy decision but did receive any response.

Cyclist however are still apprehensive about the work done by BMC.

Vashani said, "Although BMC say that they have done the work, the gap still seems wide enough for a cycle's tyre to get stuck. When riders from my group saw the spot today, the spot is still not been fixed. Why cant they place grills horizontally?"

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