Death of a Scotsman brings lessons for Goan cyclists

March 22nd, 2011 - 2:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, March 22 (IANS) When 64-year-old Scotsman Walter (Wally) Shuff succumbed to his injuries after a speeding motorcar clipped his cycle at the Goa resort village of Colva March 12, no one in particular took notice.

The tragic end of Wally Shuff, a retired merchant navyman and a “Goaphile” by heart, may have been banished to the inner pages of local newspapers. But cycling groups in the state as well as cycling aficionados have flagged the accident for the lessons it brings for them.

In Goa, the state with the highest per capita income in India and where, according to records, every two people account for one motorised vehicle, no one cares a whit about cycles and cyclists, enthusiasts feel.

“Basically it is the duty of the transport department and the traffic police to safeguard the safety of pedestrians and cyclists alike and set traffic rules to this effect,” Alex Silveira, a member of the Goa Cycle Club, told IANS.

“This has not yet happened. Our club, besides other activities, needs to address this issue as well,” Silveira added.

According to Silveira, who has himself had a couple of road-scares, the roads in Goa are “quite unsafe” for cycling.

Brian Sopher, a cycling aficionado, said that motor vehicle drivers are not educated about cyclists.

“I nearly got hit by a bus when it did not stop although it was my right of way. Sorry, but motorists and heavy vehicle drivers couldn’t care less about the law or traffic rules or deaths on the roads of this beautiful state,” said Sopher.

Pro-cyclers, according to him, are quite literally the worst-hit.

“Pro-cyclists are clipped on to the bike, this means their shoes are locked on to the pedal of the bike and a slight touch from a car, etc., would mean disaster,” he said.

After The Courier, a leading Scottish newspaper, featured an obituary piece on Walter Shuff from Angus, there were several apologetic Goan comments below the story, which pledged to make Goa a safer place for cyclists.

One voice was that of Ashley D’Silva, who heads an association of Goans settled in Mumbai.

“It is disheartening to read that Shri Walter Shuff died in a tragic road accident. We will bear down on the government of Goa to take cognizance of the traffic sense and conduct orientation meetings with the vehicle owners in Goa as is done in Mumbai city,” the secretary of the Mumbai Goan Association said.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at mayabhushan.n@ians.in)

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