It was a nice, long weekend, and I had the incredible BMW R 1250 GS at my disposal – arguably, the best touring motorcycle in the world. So, naturally, I was looking forward to an exhilarating, exciting, and fun weekend. Plus, the weather played ball as it usually does during this time of the year. As if all the stars had aligned for me to blast down the open road for a soul-fulfilling ride. But, then… well, as luck would have it, the first thing that I encountered on the road was a major roadblock – a barricade, to be more precise.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you would already know that motorcycles – of all shapes and sizes – are barred from entering new highways/expressways. And precisely this reason, my weekend plans nearly went for a toss (more on this later).
On this occasion, I was headed to Chandigarh from Noida. Now, if you’re on a four-wheeler, it’s quite an easy task. Get on the newly built NE3 from Noida, hit the cruise control, take the exit towards EPE (Eastern Peripheral Expressway), and then join the Delhi-Chandigarh highway. Not only does this route allow you to cover ground briskly, but it also saves you the hassle of navigating through the maddening traffic of Delhi-NCR. As someone who travels often, these new expressways are a godsend, really!
However, when you happen to be on two wheels, it’s a complete nightmare! That’s because you don’t have the luxury to access these super-wide expressways, which means that you are forced to go through hell, even to get out of the city.
If you are thinking that you can flout the rules and try your luck on these expressways, well, think again. Because if caught – which you will be because both the entry and exits of these expressways are regulated – you’ll have to pay hefty fines of up to Rs 20,000!
Now, all of this makes me raging mad. Imagine paying through the nose for a big and wonderful adventure tourer/cruiser/sport bike that can cruise at triple-digit speeds all day, and yet not be allowed on roads where they belong, and for all the wrong reasons. What’s even more frustrating is that the authorities expect you to take bruised and battered backroads instead. I find all of this quite ironic, considering big/imported motorcycles attract nearly 110 – 150% in excise duties/taxes and another 10 – 20% (depending on the state) in road taxes on top of that. All of that for what? To take your big BMW through small towns and villages? It’s not just unfair, it’s borderline draconian.
Now, before I continue with this rant, it’s important to understand the government’s logic behind banning the nuisance called motorcyclists. You see, most or rather all the new highways in the country are access-controlled – high-speed vehicular movement, limited entry & exit points, no traffic signals, etc. As a result, the average speed tends to be quite high on these expressways (100km/h or above). Now, given that more than 50% of our country commutes on 100 – 125cc motorcycles – which struggle to hit even 100km/h, let alone cruise at triple-digit speeds – and that 110% of us don’t understand the simple concept of lane discipline, it’s not difficult to see where the problem lies. So, the government thinks that motorcycles are basically moving roadblocks on these roads. And I somewhat agree with their reasoning.
But, then, is it fair to put a blanket ban on all motorcycles on the basis of that reasoning? Nope. That’s just lazy policing. Why can’t we allow big capacity/250cc and above motorcycles on expressways? They can cruise at 100km/h or above quite comfortably. In fact, most of the developed countries have this rule in place. So, why can’t we? Do you want tolls? Sure, I’d happily stick a Fastag on my bike or helmet, and you can make some extra revenue. Win-win for all, isn’t it? Just do it. I mean, if we can set different speed limits for cars, buses, and trucks on the same stretch of tarmac, why can’t we set a displacement/CC criterion for motorcycles for these highways? It can’t be that hard! Of course, one might argue that it would be tedious to filter big-capacity bikes from smaller ones, but, then, with everything going digital, it won’t be that difficult to catch offenders and impose heavy fines. It’s just a question of political will.
I sincerely hope that someone higher up is listening to the hue and cry of motorcyclists because this motorcycle-ban-on-highways is sucking the joy out of long-distance motorcycling.
As for my weekend, well, it wasn’t a complete waste – I was allowed to take both expressways that day. How? Well, motorcycles were exempted on those particular dates, given that there was Kanwar movement on the Delhi-Meerut expressway. And this got me thinking – perhaps all of us motorcyclists need to come out in hordes and make some noise to have those barricades removed. Apparently, that is the only way to get things done, isn’t it?