Riding a bicycle on Tamil Nadu’s roads is becoming increasingly dangerous. In 2012, the number of cyclists killed in road accidents in the state rose by a staggering 64 per cent compared to the previous year. While 341 cyclists were killed in road accidents in 2011, the figure rose to 559 in 2012. This is in sharp contrast to the case in other vehicles. For example, the fatalities of motorcycle riders increased only by 15.6 per cent and fatalities of car users rose by 19.8 per cent.
On the other hand, fatalities of many other vehicle users dipped considerably during the year -- three-wheel users dipped by 9.5 per cent and bus users dipped by 5.2 per cent (See Box). Significantly, the number of pedestrian casualties came down by near 30 per cent -- from 1,048 pedestrian deaths in 2011, to 734 in 2012. The statistics, recently released by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), only strengthen what cyclists had been feeling for long. “It appears that there the roads are meant only for motorists and cyclists are at their mercy. Almost every motorist thinks cyclists have no right for way and they don’t have to slowdown to leave space for us,” says K Mariamuthu, who works as security guard and rides a bicycle to work every day.
The NCRB’s data also shows that TN registered the second highest number of cyclists who got killed in road accidents. A total of 559 cyclists were killed on TN’s roads in 2012 - this is only next to UP (611). Among the cities, Chennai recorded second highest number of fatalities of cyclists - 58 cyclists were killed in the city, this is only next to Delhi (61). In Coimbatore, 14 cyclists were killed in road accidents. Tiruchy recorded the least number of fatalities of cyclists among cities, just 7.
A section of police officers feel that cyclists are also to blame for the increasing fatalities. “A majority of cycle users are school students and they are not matured enough to ride a vehicle on city roads. They often tend to over-speed and would want to over take motorbikes. Cycles don’t have advanced breaking system like in bikes,” says AC (traffic) S Ramakrishnan.