Friday, December 21, 2007

The Deadly East Coast Road - But, We Don't Really Have Much Choice..

Anyone who is into biking in Chennai would obviously know what the ECR is. For the uninitiated i'm talking about the East Coast Road which connects Chennai to Cuddalore through Pondicherry. This is 'the' place for any biker who wants to ride, cos' all the other highways out of Chennai the NH 45 (towards Tindivanam), NH 4 (towards Bangalore) and the NH 5 (towards Vijayawada) are just plain 4-laned motorways without any spirit whatsoever. But the ECR definitely has a certain magic feel, Now some stats; the road is 166 Km long in its first phase from Chennai to Cuddalore, and is a part of a larger road project, a proposed road along the coast upto Kanyakumari, a total distance of 737 Km from Chennai.

Now that the ECR is the most preferred choice for any Chennaite who wants to take a ride, this has increased traffic multi fold over the years, and the 2-laned road is not able to sustain the sudden spurt in traffic, as a result every year there is a increasing number of fatal accidents on the ECR. Even we were forced to learn the hard way, after this happened,but that incident has not kept us away from the ECR, but it has definitely made us more conscious of the risks involved in riding on the ECR, and on our rides after that, safety has been given the top priority.

Here are some reasons why i think the ECR has so many accidents every year,

1. The road is 2-laned and without a median, so vehicles use the opposite lane for overtaking and this isn't exactly safe even in daylight, and in the nights there is the glare from the oncoming vehicles which greatly reduce visiblity. Most accidents happen this way.

2. Drunk driving - The Chennai police are claiming to have greatly reduced the incidences of drunk driving on the ECR, but still a few offenders go undetected, also there are a lot of farmhouses along the beaches which host night parties, and with such a large number of people attending these parties, there is no way you can monitor them all. Also these road leads to Pondy, which is the booze hub of TN, but the checking on the TN-Pondy border is pretty intense, so that makes it a little better.

3. The ECR has very straight roads till a few kms after Mahabalipuram, after which the roads start getting twisty, now on these 2-laned roads that have a lot of blind spots around bends, riding on the opposite lane gets really dangerous, but no one hesitates to use the opposite lane for overtaking ever, even though know they're taking a great risk and also putting the oncoming vehicles in great danger.

4. The number of inexperienced riders on the ECR is on the rise, the driving test system for obtaining a license is a farce, so just about anybody can get a license these days, and almost everyone with a ride decides to take a ride down the ECR. But then riding on highways isn't anyway similar to riding inside the city, you need a different set of skills to ride on the highways, but no one realises this till the time they crash (even we were on this list, check this) and have to learn it the hard way(just like us).

5. There are a lot of small villages and fishing hamlets along the road, and a good highway is supposed to bypass these human settlements and provide a path around these small villages, or at least over bridges need to be built for minor traffic across the road. You'll always be surprised by a small bullock cart on the side of the road, or a moped darting across the road from nowhere, so you need to be on the watch all the time. And in the nights this gets even worse, though the reflector strips provide some relief to the vehicles, but you still will be shocked by a group of people deciding to cross the road right under your nose. Can't do anything about them really ..

But, even in spite of all this the number of vehicles using the ECR continue to rise, thats cos' as i said we people don't really have much choice.

And we're planning a ride to Pondicherry this Sunday, that prompted me to write this post now.

A few ride related links
Motorcycle Accident Prevention Tips
Motorcycle Group Riding Tips


vijay said...

nice one da.
after the crash we had on our last trip ,i guess we are quite matured enough not to ride like mad men once given a full stretch of plain roads....
i'am really looking forward for the ride on sunday....
the countdown has really begun...i can't wait for the 23rd sunday morning...

Pratosh Dwivedi said...

Something i can totally relate with. :)

I met with a horrible accident on ECR last May ... a bit was due to inexperience and a bit due to high speed. If u find time .. read the following link ..

Also, nice blog you have got here ... i liked your content

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