Self-made automobile engineer Partha Saha (left) tries his modified bike designed for social distancing.

An Indian school drop-out has built a motorbike with a one-meter gap between the rider and the passenger to drive home the importance of social distancing in the coronavirus pandemic. Partha Saha, 39, bought an old bike from a scrap dealer, removed the engine and cut the machine in two before affixing a rod slightly longer than a meter (3.2 feet) to connect the wheels.

“Now I can ride with my eight-year-old daughter while maintaining a safe distance,” he told AFP from Agartala in the northeastern state of Tripura. Like other countries, the Indian government has imposed a nationwide lockdown and urged citizens to practice social distancing to curb the spread of the virus. As of yesterday, India had reported 33,050 cases of COVID-19, with 1,074 deaths.

When the nation extended its lockdown this month until at least May 3, Saha realized the battle against the virus might not be over any time soon. He used up his meagre savings to make the vehicle, which he plans to use to ferry his daughter to and from school once the restrictions are lifted. “I didn’t want her to take the school bus as it would be crowded,” said Saha, who works in a TV repair shop. His new bike runs on battery power and has a top speed of 40 kilometers per hour (25 mph).

It takes three hours to charge the battery, which allows the bike to travel 80 kilometers (50 miles), Saha said. “The cost of charging it once comes to about 10 rupees (13 cents),” he added. The mechanic has already tried out his invention on the streets, leaving onlookers stunned at the design and drawing praise from Kumar Deb, Tripura’s chief minister. “Necessity is the mother of invention! I congratulate Partha Saha‚Ķ for making a unique motorcycle to create awareness during COVID-19 pandemic,” Deb tweeted. – AFP