The streets of Kathmandu are choked with motorcycles, and the sight of three grown men, or even an entire family, balanced on a single bike is as much part of life in the Nepalese capital as traffic jams or exhaust fumes. But residents may have to find a new way to get around town after the government made an announcement apparently banning pillion riders and asking the security forces to especially monitor that the 'request' be adhered to. The government justified last Saturday's edict by saying that Maoist terrorists riding on the backs of motorcycles had used weapons to attack government personnel. But Sunil Shakya, a shopkeeper and motorcyclist, said: 'They can't stop terrorism by making laws like this. If the Maoists come in a car and attack people, will the government say only the driver can ride in a taxi?' A western security expert called the new rule stupid, saying he could recall only one case of Maoists using a motorcycle in a shooting, in the second city of Pokhara. 'Considering how important motorcycles are to ordinary people it is quite out of proportion,' he said. There was confusion yesterday after Kathmandu city's chief civilian official, Netra Prasad Neupane, summoned journalists to say that pillion riding had not been banned but merely discouraged, and that the announcement had been misinterpreted. Asked whether motorcycle operators would be punished for carrying passengers, he said: 'I'm not in a position to answer that question.' On the streets this week, pillion riders could be seen, although they generally avoided the busy junctions where traffic policemen are often found.