If you were in Karachi on December 17th, 2013 and were driving (or being driven) near Hassan Square and you noticed a traffic jam, somewhere between 10:30 am and 10:50 am and you wondered what the reason was. I’ll tell you.
Over a month ago, on December 17th, 2013, I was going to meet someone at Clifton for an upcoming project. I was riding my bike after 5 months from Hassan Square. So, naturally, I was scared and hence extra careful while riding. I gave myself courage that everything will be fine. I didn’t know what was about to happen in the 10 minutes that were about to come next.
My process of bike riding:
I’m paranoid so I ride my bike very, very, very carefully. Always keeping a safe distance between myself and the vehicles in front. It’s not because I am a safe/careful bike rider. It’s because of a simple reason. I don’t want to die.
When I switch lanes I do the following:
While switching lanes, I assess the speed and the intention of the vehicle in front of me. I keep turning my head over my shoulder to assess the distance and speed of the vehicles coming from behind. If everything looks fine I turn on the indicator and using my arm or my hand, I give signals of switching lanes, before the switch. This process takes 5 to 6 seconds.
The road from Karachi Expo Center to the National stadium splits into two. The two faster lanes meet the flyover and become two lanes of the said flyover. The slower lanes of the road branch into a separate road and runs adjacent to the flyover for a while and then splits into three more roads.
The flyover near National Stadium.
-Image by Iftikhar A. Khan
This one instance when I was switching to the fast lane and I looked back to see the vehicles behind. I saw the guy, the central character in this story, for 2 seconds near the Expo Center. A biker in a T-shirt with no helmet. He may or may not have been wearing sunglasses, I can’t remember now. The guy was swerving his bike left to right and back. From my own experience this happens, when a biker is very happy or suffering from road rage, or in a hurry. From his expressions I realized that he was not speeding because of any emergency. He seemed to be casually speeding.
I switched into the fast lane. The T-shirt guy sped past me from behind from the left.
And in a few seconds there were two or three cars between us. So the biker was in the lane to my left, ahead of me and I was in the right lane.
There was a water-tanker-truck (a truck with a tank/container attached for transporting water) ahead of me, towards the left. It didn’t change lanes and it didn’t increase its speed. So my assessment was that it wanted to go over the flyover. So I kept in my lane. One of the most important rules while riding bikes is to never take on a truck or a larger vehicle. You can never ever win. The T-Shirt guy sped in front of the water tanker.
When I reached the starting point of the National Stadium flyover, the accident took place. The water-tanker-truck screeched and made sounds exactly like in the movies of rubber-tires of the water-tanker-truck and the body of the bike (under the wheels of the water-tanker-truck) going against each other. My assessment is that the unlucky biker thought that there was enough road to get in front of the tanker and that he would switch to the left branch of road, that ran adjacent to the flyover. But the cut, to switch to the left branch, was gone and was replaced by the flyover wall. The biker hit the left wall of the flyover and then came under the tanker. Perhaps a strong wind (very common near flyovers) had caused the bike to slip.
There was another biker in front of me, who I will call an ‘idiot biker’. I call him an ‘idiot biker’ because I could have died because of his carelessness. The ‘idiot biker’ braked and stopped right in the middle of the road to look at the accident. He didn’t care that he was carrying a passenger. He didn’t park his bike to the side and immediately just stopped.
I had to slow down my bike quickly, which is not the correct thing to do while you are riding at a fast speed, (I think the maximum speed on flyovers is 40 km/h) but I had no choice because I would have hit the ‘idiot biker’ in front of me. I quickly looked back over my right shoulder and I saw a white car maintaining its speed and not slowing down. This was bad news for me. I got scared and I looked towards the front. I let my bike slow down, but didn’t stop my bike, and prepared my mind to get hit by the white car behind me.
The car touched my bike from behind with some force and my bike began to lose its balance. I thought I was going to die. My bike then hit the bike of the ‘idiot biker’. And surprisingly gained back its balance. I took control of the bike and moved to the left and kept going till I got past the moron. I later realized that the car behind me had slowed down in time to just slightly hit my bike.
I looked back and saw the white car came to a stop and then it got hit by another car from behind.
While looking back, I saw the unfortunate biker lying under the front wheel of the truck. His face was facing the road. When I saw this image, I sensed that he was extremely sad. I can’t explain this feeling. I couldn’t see his face correctly but this strong sensation was overwhelmingly sad. I looked forward and kept going until I reached my destination in Clifton.
I could have stopped and helped. But I didn’t. I thought of stopping. But I didn’t stop. During the bike ride I questioned myself about my lack of action. This was made worse by my negative daydreaming where I saw myself dictating the water-tanker-truck’s driver to back away from the man. I saw myself taking control of the situation. I saw myself tying my belt on his thighs or arms to prevent blood loss. I saw myself loading the unfortunate man into a car and giving instructions to the nearest hospital.
Some can call, my riding away, a selfish, insensitive or cowardly act. But I had the belief that there were people, who had seen more terrible things, people who had cars to take the man to a hospital, would take care of the man. Also before you judge me, I’d like to mention that I had just avoided death. So the adrenalin was forcing me to keep riding my bike. My reptilian brain was telling me to move away from the scene, where I could have died, as quickly as possible.
Now the question: Did the unfortunate guy on the bike survive?
Well, as I came to the end of the flyover, going towards Karsaz, a white car rushed passed me, on my right. I think, no, I hope that the man was being taken to the hospital and I hope that he survived. I couldn’t find the news using Google. Perhaps it was not reported. So I can’t confirm about the fate of that man. (If you know about the details please comment below I would really appreciate.)
If the water-tanker-driver has been arrested and requires a testimony, then I must state that it wasn’t the water-tanker-driver’s fault. It was the unfortunate biker’s fault. Had he been careful and observant and had he not been riding his bike carelessly, very close to the water-tanker, this traffic accident could have been avoided.
– Always, always, always wear a helmet. Never ride a bike without it.
– Keep some distance while you are driving, between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.
– Never ride bikes too close to cars and other heavy vehicles like trucks.
– When an accident takes place or not, never, ever, stop immediately on the road. You could get hit by the traffic coming from behind.
I lost some of my confidence (of riding a bike) after witnessing that accident. It will take a lot of time to readjust. I hope this post helps people to be a little cautious while riding bikes or driving cars.