Though a significant change is visible regarding helmet use by bike users in the capital, experts think the protective gear many passengers of ridesharing services wear are awfully unsafe and substandard.
Amid the enforcement of law for ensuring the helmet use by the bikers following the students’ ‘Safe Road’ movement, some ridesharing companies, including Uber, Pathao, Obhai and Shohoz, provided helmets to their riders, but police said most of those are just caps what the construction workers use.
Transport and urban experts said the government should fix specific criteria for using safe helmets and imposing a ban on importing substandard helmets and their use by bikers to ensure their safety as the number of users of the two-wheeler is growing fast.
Currently, motorbikes constitute around 60 percent of the country’s total vehicles, officials said.
The Traffic Division of Dhaka Metropolitan Police said they are thinking of launching a strong drive against the use of unsafe and low quality helmets and force the bikers to use standard ones.
Talking to UNB, some passengers of ridesharing services alleged that the helmets they are given by the bikers are below the standards and not capable to protect their faces and heads in case of any accident.
They also said most bikers use better helmets than ones they provide their passengers, and most of them keep the ordinary helmets only to show the law enforcers that they are abiding by the law.
“Though the ridesharing companies gave their driver partners helmets, they hardy use those and give those their passengers. In most cases, we see bike drivers give their passengers very low quality, dirty and poor quality helmets,” said Abul Kalam who often uses the service of UberMoto and Pathao.
Sadia Trina, another user of UberMoto and Pathao, said the helmets provided by both the companies are very light and poor quality which cannot properly adjust to the head. “As I wear spectacles I find it difficult to wear the helmets the bikers provide. I think such helmets are not safe. It seems to me the bike drivers keep name-only helpmates only to avoid punishment by the police, but they don’t understand its importance.”
Despite repeated requests for comment on the issue over phone and through email, the Uber authorities did not responded, apparently showing their apathy to the serious passenger safety issue while the Pathao spokesman could not be reached over phone.
Contacted, DMP deputy commissioner (traffic-west zone) Liton Kumar Saha said they are seriously worried over the safety of the passengers of ridesharing services as they use toy-type low-quality plastic helmets.
“Most of the helmets the passengers of the ridesharing services use are made of plastic which usually wear the construction workers. The poor quality helmets can’t protect the passengers in case of any accident,” he said.
Liton Kumar said they have so far worked for bringing a change in people’s habit of not using helmets while riding motorbikes. “We’ve got success in this regard as most bike riders now use helpmates.”
He said they are now planning to carry out a massive campaign to create awareness among bike riders to use standard helmets for their own safety. “We’re also thinking of setting the criteria for quality helmets.”
After the campaign, he said they will go for drastic action, including filing cases, against those who do not use quality helmets.
Urban expert and ex-chairman of University Grant Commission (UGC) Prof Nazrul Islam said it looks good as most bikers and their riders use helmets. “But, quality helmets are not used to ensure their safety. Law enforcers should look into the issue seriously.”
He said there is a tendency among the bikers to drive recklessly to increase their trips and thus income, causing the rise in bike accidents. “As the motorbike use is growing rapidly and many ridesharing companies are in operation here, the government should formulate a ridesharing policy to bring the bikers under discipline and force them to ensure passengers’ safety.”
Besides, he said, the government can think of keeping separate lanes for bikes, bicycles and rickshaws and auto-rickshaws in the main streets.
Prof Shamsul Huq, former director of Accident Research Unit of Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology and a transport expert, said there is anarchy in the name of using helmets in the country as most bikers use ‘fancy and sub-standard ones for lack of monitoring by the authorities concerned.
He said safe and international standard helmets are heavy and expensive that is why bikers don not want to use those ignoring their personal safety. “Helmet is a life-saving instrument for motorbike riders, and riding bikes without safe helmets means putting the life at danger.”
Huq said the government should stop importing fancy and unsafe helmets. “Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institution (BSTI) should set a standard of safe helmets and no one should be allowed to import those without BSTI’s clearance.”
Mentioning that motorbike accounts for around 60 percent of the country’s total vehicles, the Buet professor said a huge number of potential young use this mode of transport without ensuring their necessary safety. “So, the government should take the issue seriously to reduce the risk of bikers.”
Besides, he said, the ridesharing companies should either provide their driver partners with standard helmets or they should not allow them to enlist bikes who lack at least one pair of high quality helmets.unb