Don’t modify your ride

The denizens of Kathmandu are not very clear on the law regarding customisation of vehicles; while some pay fines for modifying their motorbikes, others manage to flaunt their car upgrades. Anupama Limbu from THT Auto Plus finds out the real status of vehicle customisation in the City

KATHMANDU: Owning a vehicle is a matter of pride, but for some, their satisfaction isn’t complete unless the ride is personalised to their tastes. The roads of Kathmandu are jam-packed with different brands of cars and motorbikes. To stand out from the crowd, commuters, especially youngsters, have made vehicle customisation a visibly prevalent trend.

The authorities however are very clear that any changes to a vehicle’s appearance or function not included in the vehicle identification card, commonly known as the ‘blue book’, are illegal according to an act that came into effect in 1992. The law was loosely implemented until the assertion of the ‘No Horn’ policy in the Valley this year, upon which motorcycles modified to sound louder have especially come under the scanner.

“According to the Motor Vehicles and Transport Management Act 2049, it is illegal to perform any kind of modification on vehicles,” said Dr Tok Raj Pandey, Spokesperson for the Department of Transport Management. “If it were to enhance the performance of the vehicle then the vehicle manufacturers would have carried out the modification,” he added.

Ever since the imposition of the ‘No Horn’ policy on April 14, customised motorcycles have been confiscated by the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division. Action is being taken against riders who have modified their vehicle’s exhaust system in order to make it sound more powerful, thus adding to the noise pollution in the city. Every day five to ten people are detained and fined Rs 1,500 for illegal modifications and told to restore their vehicles’ original structure. The clampdown has generated mixed reactions.

Raajib Sayami, co-founder of RS Moto who has a passion for building custom motorcycles said, “Noise made by extra exhaust pipes of motorbikes needs to be controlled to minimise noise pollution but traffic police also need to exhibit proper awareness about the original machinery and the sound motorbikes normally make.” When asked about dangerous customisations, he said, “People nowadays are not aware of proper riding skills and safety issues. This is why the situation is worsening.”

Motorcycle enthusiast Bakhtiyar Uddin feels that the law is too draconian. Pointing out that an owner has the right to do as they wish with their vehicle, he said, “I am not very fond of this rule. Customisation brings out better performance in the vehicle.” He further explained, “There should be a limitation on how much a vehicle can be modified but not allowing any modified vehicles on the road is entirely impractical. The rule should favour both the vehicle owner and the authorities concerned.”

Regardless, SP Lokendra Malla of the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division is confident that this rule is for the better. When asked for the reason behind the rule, Malla said, “We are confiscating the customised motorbikes as many silencer pipes have been tampered with to produce a louder sound.

Similarly, the appearances of motorbikes and cars are also modified to an unrecognisable extent.” Insisting that these changes do more harm than good, he added, “Modifying vehicles without proper authorisation and documentation is punishable by law. Loud noises emitted by vehicles definitely have an adverse effect on people’s wellbeing. If the original motorcycle produces an unacceptably loud sound, we summon the vehicle dealers and ask them to minimise it.”

Citing the example of the ‘No Horn’ policy as an initiative that significantly decreased noise pollution in the valley, Malla is convinced that the directive banning customisation will have a positive effect as well. He said, “I would advise people to make no changes to their vehicle’s structure as it is a punishable offence. If such strict rules about vehicle customisation are not imposed it gives criminals the opportunity to commit crimes and then make their vehicles untraceable. We take these important factors into consideration when making such rules. The sound produced by the vehicles should not exceed 84 decibels. However, this rule does not apply to highways.”

When asked about garages that provide these customisation services, Malla said, “I do not find fault with the garage owners who make the modifications, I consider it the fault of the people who are seekingsuch alterations.”