Helmet for pillions - Boon, Bane, or Balloon?

Towards the end of 2015, Bangaloreans were informed about the imposition of a new traffic rule. One that stipulated that even pillion riders would have to wear a helmet. And, a couple of weeks into the new year witnessed the rule being implemented with gusto.

Across the city, we witnessed a number of pillion riders wearing helmets. Rapido did a couple of counts (albeit unauditable) and found that increasingly, there were more pillion riders wearing helmets compared to those who weren't. The areas where bulk of pillions were seen wearing helmets were central Bangalore (MG Road, Brigade Road, Richmond Road, Commercial Street), Indira Nagar, and Koramangala.

However, the ever customising Bangaloreans have found their own way out of the rule. A large number of pillions have been spotted wearing those yellow Hard hats rather than a helmet. Interestingly, the traffic police is obliged to let people wearing those go. Evidently, the traffic police haven't been informed or educated enough about the type of helmet that should be made mandatory.

Is the rule important? Will it make a difference? What are its implications? Is it like a balloon that eventually loses air? We spoke to a number of people across the city and here's what they said:

Prathap Gangadharan, a branding consultant said, "It reeks of corruption. It really is a way to make some money. I have a feeling they have some understanding with a helmet manufacturer and are splitting the profits." However, Hafeez Pasha, a helmet salesman had quite the contrary view, he said that helmet sales haven't really shot up as much as they had expected. He added, "Most people are not wearing helmets to save their heads; they are doing that out of fear of being fined by the police. So what people do is buy cheap helmets that are of bad quality. If you think my business has increased, you're wrong. It's the road-side vendors who are benefiting." Pasha also added something interesting, “A helmet is designed to protect your head. The strength is to protect your head from impact, and the round and smooth surface is so that a wheel slides, or slips off it, before it can cause damage. This is why one should wear helmets.”

Gangadharan injected another crucial angle - the condition of the roads. He said, "I can be the most careful motorist who follows lane discipline, speed limits, etc., but what about pot-holes? What if I hit a pot-hole on a dimly lit road and fall? How will the helmet save a motorist's arm or leg from a vehicle coming from behind?" When asked for a solution, he said, "Everything needs to be connected. If we are expected to wear helmets - pillions included - then the authorities are expected to fix the roads. Make it a holistic solution, not some makeshift plan."

Rapido exclusively spoke to Mr RN Nataraj, the Asst. Commissioner of Traffic Police - Central division about the rule. He said, when the helmet for riders rule was made mandatory, around 80-90% riders started wearing helmets. With the implementation of this rule, we now see most riders wearing helmets. Of course, it will be deemed successful only when we achieve similar numbers with pillion riders as well.” When asked about the makeshift helmets, Mr Nataraj said, “That is a cause for concern. The purpose of this rule is safety, not burdening motorists. We will audit the safety of the temporary helmets and incorporate accordingly.”

Commuting on a bike is one of the easiest ways to get around the city due to the traffic situation. Due to the comparatively less space a bike takes, it is easy to manoeuvre. Of course, it may seem impertinent for some to go ahead and buy a bike - especially if they don’t know how to ride one, or already own a car. So what seems to be the solution? Simple - Rapido provides a number of options for people don’t wish to add to the traffic and simply hitch a bike ride. Download the app now to look for locations where you can be picked-up from and dropped-off to. Remember though, always ensure that you wear a helmet to follow rules and ensure the safety of your brain bucket!