Tehran’s Omnipresent Motorcycle Nuisance

Tehran’s Omnipresent Motorcycle Nuisance
Tehran’s Omnipresent Motorcycle Nuisance

While Beijing is known as the global capital of bicycle commute, and Venice, boat transport, Tehran is famous for its huge number of motorcycle taxis, a dubious distinction as many of them are substandard and often responsible for the high number of traffic accidents as well as air and noise pollution.

There are 3 to 3.5 million motorcycles registered in Tehran (the actual number is said to be much higher) exceeding the number of cars registered in the expanding metropolis, which according to the Transportation and Traffic Department of Tehran Municipality is not over 3 million, the Persian language newspaper ‘Hamshahri’ reported.

Studies by sociologists indicate that the main reason for the high number of motorcycles is the fact that they have become a convenient means for making a living for many people, especially those on the dole queue.

Because of Tehran’s heavy traffic snarls many commuters who need to get somewhere quickly prefer to take a motorcycle instead of a taxi, said Tehran Traffic Police Chief Teymour Hosseini.

According to figures released by the Traffic Police, 70% of motorcyclists (2.1 million) use their motorbikes to earn money and only 30% for personal transport.

Stating that in some situations using a standard motorcycle can have many advantages over cars as a means of transport, Hosseini said, “Currently many motorcyclists are employed by post offices and private companies to dispatch parcels, packages and goods; this helps reduce traffic congestion.”

  Lack of Safety

The pluses aside, almost 30% of all deadly accidents involve motorcycles. Unfortunately many motorbike riders don’t wear helmets (especially during summer months when the weather is hot) and head injury is the cause of death of 61% of motorcycle accident victims.  

According to figures released by the Iranian Legal Medicine Organization (LMO), between the years 2006 and 2010, nearly 30,901 people lost their lives in motorcycle accidents. This is equal to 25.7% of all traffic-related deaths. Around 90% of the victims had education qualification lower than a high school diploma.

Most of the surveillance cameras installed across the capital and suburban roads are not able to register traffic offences committed by motorcycle riders and that’s why they escape penalties. They are also involved in more accidents than car owners as they normally drive at high speed with impunity.

“In order to reduce the effects on health due to air pollution caused by motorcycles, from October this year production of substandard motorcycles equipped with outdated carburetors will be stopped. Only motorcycles with new electronic fuel injection (EFI) systems will be produced and registered, Hosseini said.

“At present, Tehran’s streets are littered with highly polluting motorcycles whose emissions are five times greater than the average city car.”

On average, 1 million motorcycles generate 286 tons of carbon monoxide (CO), 100 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and more than 7 tons of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) each day.

  Electric Motorbikes

Meanwhile, Tehran deputy mayor for transportation and traffic, Ja’far Hashemi Tashakori said electric motorbikes can be a good solution to the problem of air pollution caused by gasoline-powered motorbikes. Each motorcycle causes as much contamination as several cars and also accounts for 50% of sound pollution.

 “If the gasoline motorbikes are replaced with electric ones, noise and air pollution will decrease remarkably. This is one of the important proposals we have made and we hope it will be accepted by the relevant authorities.”

Discussions have been held with the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Trade for implementation of the plan to replace gasoline motorcycles with electric two-wheelers. The plan is presently on the agenda of TM’s Transportation and Traffic Office. Domestic motorcycle companies should plan and move toward electric motorcycle production, he said.

Electric motorbikes have the advantage of being pollution-free as well as contributing less to noise pollution, which is one of the biggest complaints against gasoline motorbikes.

It is estimated that these motorbikes produce 120 million tons of pollutants in the city annually. Each motorbike is said to produce eight times as much pollutants as a vehicle with Euro 2 standard.

The electric bike produces 10 decibels of noise, which is eight times less than gasoline motorbikes.

Studies show that 47% of motorcycle owners in Iran use motorbikes to commute from home to work, 29% use motorcycles as a means of earning a livelihood, while the rest use it in their leisure time.