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DUE to the lack of a proper public transport system, the city’s roads are swamped by motorbikes.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
DUE to the lack of a proper public transport system, the city’s roads are swamped by motorbikes.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: As more than 700 new motorcycles are hitting the city’s roads every day, the number of bikes in Karachi has risen to over 2.7 million, thus multiplying traffic problems in the metropolis which is already battling with deteriorating public transport system.

Increase in local production has brought the prices down which made motorbikes the most preferred vehicle for the middle class, which has suffered the most owing to lack of public buses and other modes of transport like trams and trains.

However, with more than 230 per cent increase in the number of motorbikes in the city during the past decade, both experts and authorities believe the city seems to be heading towards traffic chaos.

Karachi, which is considered a city of about 20 million people, lacks traffic management system, road infrastructure and most importantly absence of road sense in motorcyclists who are involved in most accidents.

Experts fear the city is headed towards traffic chaos

These facts and figures emerged during a recent meeting of the Sindh Assembly’s committee on home affairs where officials of the Anti-Car Lifting Cell (ACLC) came up with the data of vehicle-related crimes in the city.

The officials briefed the legislators about the state of traffic in the city where hundreds of thousands of vehicles move on the roads daily and how they were stolen or snatched at gunpoint.

“During the brief, the ACLC informed the lawmakers that according to Sindh excise and taxation department data there are 2,701,949 registered motorbikes in Karachi,” said a source citing the data made available to the committee members during the meeting.

“In 2007, there were only 814,898 registered motorbikes in Karachi. Over the last 10 years, 1,887,051 new motorcycles have appeared on the roads of the city. The difference shows about 231.56pc increase in the number of bikes in Karachi.

“Ten years ago, about 339 new motorbikes were being registered in Karachi every day. That number has now risen to about 702 new bikes every day.”

Motorcycle assemblers see Karachi as the biggest market in the province for the locally-manufactured motorbikes, with Sindh emerging as the second major province after Punjab, where some two million motorcycles hit the roads every year.

“Some years ago, we only had Japanese brands available in local markets. A 70cc bike was available for Rs70,000. Now, you can get the bike of the same power for just Rs40,000. This price range may vary if you go for a 125cc bike,” said Aslam Raza, a local assembler of the Chinese motorbikes, adding that assembling of the neighbouring country’s motorbikes had changed the entire business scenario in the country.

It may be a positive sign for the industry and a large number of people who are able to own vehicles, but it does not inspire those who monitor the city’s infrastructure closely.

They stress that one must look into the reasons for the increase in the number of motorbikes in Karachi.

An official of Shehri-Citizens for a Better Environment, Amber Alibhai, said one must observe the causes which were pushing people to buy motorcycles.

“In my opinion, the two-wheeler should be one’s last choice keeping in view the wayward traffic we have in Karachi. Such people suffer the most number of accidents.

“Despite a bike’s dangerous ride, people still buy it. Therefore, we should look into its reasons. The only reason in my view is lack of transport choices which a common man has. He is left with no choice but to own a bike to travel. Here, the quantity of buses is declining while the sale of motorbikes is going up consistently.”

Besides, she said, the metropolis only built flyovers and underpasses in the name of infrastructure development which only helped in doing away with traffic signals but they had not offered any extra space to the vehicles being added to city traffic on a regular basis.

“Resultantly, traffic jams have become a matter of routine on every single road. The roads which until a few years ago were considered smooth for traffic, now do not offer easy travel,” she added.

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2017