How Cyclist Subhendu Chatterjee's Death Reflects India's Poor Road Safety And Infrastructure For Two-Wheeler Citizens

The alarming numbers of road accidents involving cyclists throws light on their daily journeys, riddled with rash driving, faulty roads, non-adherence to road rules, lack of awareness, absence of dedicated lanes, lack of empathy for other road users, parking stations, etc. 

The deceased Subhendu Chatterjee's damaged cycle on the corner of the Mahipalpur flyover

Gurugram-resident Subhendu Chatterjee, 50, was killed on Sunday after being rammed a BMW while cycling near the Mahipalpur flyover towards Dhaula Kuan in Delhi.

The car’s owner, a Punjabi Bagh resident, was heading from Gurugram to Delhi, driven by his driver, Somvir, who lost control of the car after a tyre burst. Subhendu was taken to the hospital, but was declared dead on arrival. The driver has been arrested and the police have filed a case of rash driving and causing death by negligence.

Subhendu ran a garment manufacturing business in Gurugram and is survived by his parents, wife and 21-year-old daughter. His friends say he was a “legend” in the Delhi-Gurgaon cyclist groups and had covered one of the toughest rides called the CKB–1,200 km ride.  He was an active member of the cyclist group Delhi Randonneurs, and would cycle almost every day with other cyclists or solo.

Further depressing, the avid cyclist would raise awareness about road safety for cyclists and pedestrians. He had participated in a road safety awareness event last week on the Golf Course Road. The event was organised by the Gurgaon district administration, local police and an NGO as a remembrance of people who were killed in road accidents in Gurgaon in the past five years.

Subhendu Chatterjee's case is not a stray one. 

  • In October, two cyclists Dharmpal (70) and Saheb Khan (32)were killed after being hit by a speeding Skoda car on the Golf Course road. The car driver, who was a Wazirabad resident and college student, dragged the cyclists for more than 50 feet as the car was in full speed and both bicycles got shattered.
  • In August, a speeding car hit two children Surendra (12) and Robin (10) riding their bicycle in Rajasthan's Hanumangarh, sending their bike and bodies flying and seriously injuring them.
  • In June, a Class X student, Neelima (16), was cycling to school when she was hit by speeding pickup van. She was killed on the spot, while her friend was injured. The incident took place in Kanjhawala. 
  • In April, a 26-year-old Kunwar Arora, a resident of Swasthya Vihar in east Delhi, was killed after he was hit by a truck on Sardar Patel Marg. 

The above casualties throw light about the state of commute in India for cyclists and two-wheelers, whose journeys are riddled with rash driving, faulty roads, non-adherence to road rules, lack of awareness, absence of dedicated lanes, lack of empathy for other road users, parking stations, etc. 

Statistical data

  • Between January and May this year, Delhi Police data recorded 17 cyclists deaths in road accidents in the city. The figure stood at 12 during the same period last year. This is an increase of around 42 per cent. Cops also claimed that a rise in the number of cyclists on roads post-Covid pandemic was also a contributing factor to the increase in accidents.
  • Around 78% of those killed in road accidents last year were two-wheeler riders and pedestrians. In contrast, car drivers constituted 11% of deaths. According to data shared by traffic police, around 409 people died in road accidents in 2021, while another 574 suffered injuries. Of the road fatalities, 144 (35%) were riding motorcycles, 36 (9%) were riding scooters and 13 (3%) were on bicycles.
  • In 2020, a report by Statista Research Department said the number of cyclists fatalities from road accidents in Delhi amounted to 48. This was an increase from about 36 fatalities in the previous year.
  • Almost 40 per cent of injuries and fatalities of cyclists happen to children below 16 years.
  • The annual ‘Road Accidents in India’ report released by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways enumerates road crash fatalities of various road user categories including bicycle users. There have been a total of 21, 196 deaths of bicycle users in road crashes from 2012-2016. Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Haryana are the top five states with the maximum number of road crash deaths of bicycle users. 
  • As many as 54 per cent of rural families and 43 per cent in cities have one cycle, shows the latest National Family Health Survey. 

In Gurugram alone, from where Subhendu hails, most of the roads here don’t have footpaths, and those that do have been encroached upon or have several obstacles.

Cycling on city roads is risky with cycle lanes either non-existent or unused. New-age bike-sharing apps are finding it hard to scale up without demand while pollution watchers groan in dismay. Riders feel the overall number of tracks available remain insufficient to enable them to pedal without running into traffic or pedestrians.

Some Positive measures 

  • Amid rising deaths on roads due to accidents, Odisha is planning to amend its State Motor Vehicle Rules to provide for special tracks for cyclists and pedestrians along state and national highways for reduction of fatalities. Mooting the amendment of Rule 162 of Odisha Motor Vehicles Rules, 1993, the commerce and transport department has proposed that the state transport authority will have to ensure that Public Works Department and other departments such as rural development and National Highways Authority of India demarcate designated street space for pedestrians, cyclists and other non-motorised road users on all roads and highways in the State.
  • The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in March announced it will build India's first-ever Sports Authority of India (SAI) National Centre of Excellence (NCOE) in collaboration with the Himachal Pradesh government to train athletes in Mountain Terrain Biking (MTB) and Bicycle Motocross (BMX) in Shimla. The centre is being set up to provide world-class training facilities to cyclists in India to compete for the 18 Olympic medals in the disciplines of MTB and BMX.
  • Early 2022, New Delhi unveiled a cycle plaza in Lodhi Garden Colony; Bengaluru became the first Indian city to create a pop-up cycle lane on the city's outer ring road; and Mumbai started a public bike sharing service a few metro stations.
  • The Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) on Wednesday prepared a draft Active Mobility Bill, Karnataka 2021, mandating Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) to ensure the implementation of facilities for road users and proposes a fine if the bodies fail to do so.