Ride sharing motorcycle services have recently become popular in Pakistan and aim to provide an affordable solution to mobility and heavy traffic congestion. I have used two motorcycle sharing services in the past five months in Islamabad/ Rawalpindi and they provide a frugal and innovative method of commuting.Accepting a passenger on a bicycle means accepting a responsibility and in my personal experience that responsibility is not being fully delivered. From a perspective of safety, I have only been provided a helmet once, been involved in an accident causing injury, many near-misses, dealt with misplaced individuals riding bikes on someone else’s identity and some sloppy post-accident customer handling. The safety issues which I encountered can be addressed with a minimum of attention/resources. The most pressing safety issue in bike sharing is the use of helmets for pillion riders. Motorbike pillion riders are as vulnerable to head injuries as riders and by law, the use of helmets for all motorbike riders including those riding pillion, is mandatory in Islamabad. However its implementation has fizzled out in the wake of the Faizabad dharna. The websites of most motorcycle sharing services commit to providing helmets for passengers but I have only been provided a helmet, once. The usual answer has been that ‘our companies do not provide us with helmets’ or ‘you can wear mine if you want to’. The only one time that I was offered a helmet, it was essentially a ‘plastic hat’ masquerading as a helmet. As I put it on the realisation is that it is petite, barely covers the lower jaw and the lower visor sticks on the tip of the nose. It is ironic that the market is now flushed with cheap ‘plastic caps’ with no safety standard certification, and which would crack and splatter at high impact, causing injury instead of preventing harm.Helmet standards need to be monitored by the relevant authorities and using subpar helmets needs to be penalisedThe side mirrors are the best resource when it comes to spotting potential hazards out of the immediate field of vision, which is also being obstructed by the helmet. Sadly, baring a few exceptions, almost all of my rides did not have side mirrors. I have been involved in three ‘near misses’ and all three have happened, when the rider took a sudden turn, without looking behind at adjacent lanes. In my last ride, the bike behind me got hit, lost control and fell right in the middle of the road. While our bike did swerve, the rider was able to gain control and we escaped unscathed. This incident was the last straw which provided the impetus to write this article.There is a general tendency in our transport sector, not to use indicators while switching lanes or taking turns. So while bike sharing websites talk about regular vehicle inspection and training, it is one thing to know the path and another thing to actually implement our learning on the road. Similarly I have travelled on bikes with non-functional speedometers, and there is no way to gauge the speed at which the rider is moving. Another ignored aspect is that of proper clothing and weather protection, which would appear common sense but I fear that common sense is something which is not very common. We have just gone through a cold season in Islamabad and I have riders turn up to me wearing a shawl, wearing Peshawari chappals (improper protection of feet) and without gloves. There have been many occasions during a ride, where the riders have been forced to move their bare hands from the motor cycle handle to warm them in their armpits, as the oncoming cold has made their fingers numb.Riding safely and comfortably in cold weather begins with proper protection of the body and corrects layering choices. Minor interventions like hand guards, a jacket and proper shoes can make the experience more comfortable for the rider and improve safety. I am not even touching on the issues of cold tires(less traction and braking), anti freeze, etc, and I seriously hope that the bike sharing companies train their riders on these issues.And finally the post-accident customer handling leaves much to desire. I have been involved in an accident while ride sharing. Luckily it was at low velocity and I was able to escape with grazing on my knee. I also realised that the rider, when he took off his helmet, was not the same person as indicated on his phone identity. He had no clue how to handle the situation and demanded money for the journey which we had undertaken. I refused and grabbed a taxi to a clinic to get a tetanus injection and have my wound dressed. In the meantime I called up the helpline of the bike sharing company.The time was around11 am and I had a detailed conversation with an operator, who had no clue how to address the situation and who assured me that somebody would get back to me shortly. That phone call came at around 4:00 pm, when I was in Asr prayer. By that time I had already dressed my wounds. Next day I had another call in the daytime, apologising and asking about my wellness and that they would compensate for anything which had a receipt.Of course, taxis do not give receipts and neither do clinics. On a positive note, the operator informed me that my bill for the last trip had been waived off and I am ever so grateful. I just wonder, what would have happened if a life threatening situation were to occur. According to the company website, all passengers and riders are insured and are to be provided with medical assistance. I seriously hope they put that into practice.All these issues demand a rethink of road safety by the relevant authorities as well as bike sharing services. The government is the glue which holds the frame together and it has a major role to play.To begin with the road between Peshawar More and Double Road in Rawalpindi is a motorist’s nightmare, where trucks, trailers, horse carts and motorcycles share mobility space. It is lumpy and bumpy with vast patches of broken road and my accident occurred when the rider tried to change lanes on a broken patch and lost control. It is the government’s responsibility to repair roads and provide a safe road experience.The Islamabad Traffic police needs to enforce the pillion helmet law and the general public needs to be sensitized that motorbike pillion riders are as vulnerable to head injuries as riders. Also helmet standards need to be monitored by relevant authorities and subpar helmets need to be penalised.In some parts of the world, it is mandatory to have side view mirrors on bikes and perhaps we could look into such legislation in Pakistan as well. Finally monitoring of transport sharing services and working with them to address issues related to safety, is an important part which can only be played by the government.My final word is to bike sharing companies, who use the sub-contractor model for their services. These subcontractors can mean the difference between a job well-done, and a reputation destroyed. I have pointed out some issues, which happened in my personal capacity, in the belief that bike sharing is an important social innovation. I hope my comments are useful in addressing these safety issues.The writer is a futurist based at the Centre for Policy Studies, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.orgPublished in Daily Times, April 3rd 2018.