By Soumik Dutta
Despite being an eco-friendly, non-polluting mode of transport that comes bundled with several health benefits, the humble bicycle is yet to get its due recognition in Bangalore’s ever-expanding transportation sector.
According to a report published in journal Atmospheric Pollution Research, half of Bangalore's
The share of bicycles in Bengaluru traffic has fallen drastically in the last few decades. In 1965, 70% of all traffic in Bengaluru was bicycles. The number slid to 20% in 1988 and reached a dismal 5% in 1998. In 2002, the share of bicycles failed to improve, according to a 2014 study by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).
According to a report published in journal Atmospheric Pollution Research, half of Bangalore’s air pollution will come from vehicles by 2030 if no corrective measures are taken. Apart from clean fuel and mass transport, cycling is touted as an answer to vehicular pollution.
Bangalore is among those cities in India where the concept of bicycle-sharing services began. However, the services are restricted to certain pockets of the city because of a lack of requisite infrastructure like continuous and un-encroached cycling tracks, particularly along the operational metro railway stations.
A vulnerable lot
“I am scared to venture out too far due to the unruly traffic and the treatment meted out to cyclists deliberately by speeding motorists. They drive as if we are invisible,” complains college-goer Rawnak Ahmed, who lives in north Bengaluru and makes it a point to never be on the pedal without his helmet.
His concern is not unfounded as more than 25,000 cyclists have been killed in India in a five-year period between 2011 and 2015, according to a report by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
Sharda K, who works in one of the technology parks in Bengaluru, said she has read in the media about the government intermittently announcing plans to encourage cycling in the city but she and many of her friends who are cycling enthusiasts are held back since these policies hardly manifest.
Amongst the upwardly mobile population in Bengaluru, there has been a surge in interest towards cycling. Several technology-based companies in Bengaluru, like Bosch, Qualcomm, Cisco and Juniper Network have already introduced a ‘cycle to work’ concept among its employees.
According to Mahendra Jain, former additional chief secretary of Karnataka urban development department, the state government has allotted Rs80 crore for fresh development of integrated cycling tracks in the current budget.
Currently, there are only a few cycling tracks in India and even the ones that are there are not continuous. Their condition is so shoddy that the cyclist often ends up using the roads, jostling for space with other motorised vehicles.
In 2012, Bengaluru got its first bicycle tracks along 22 roads in Jayanagar area. Built at a cost of Rs2.5 crore, the tracks are now lost to illegal car parking. Apparently due to a lack of coordination among different departments, several of these tracks also run into bus bays.
In 2013, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) conceived another bicycle track in Madiwala area along the Hosur Road and worked out a budget of Rs3.6 crore. However, till date, the project has not taken off.
If bicycles were to substitute the two-and-four-wheelers used for short-distance trips, it could result in an annual benefit of Rs1.8 trillion, equivalent to 1.6 percent of India’s GDP for 2015-16, according to a recent report published by TERI.
The study titled ‘Benefits of cycling in India: An economic, environmental, and social assessment’ also pointed out the direct and indirect benefits of cycling. The savings from the increased physical activity itself is valued at over Rs1.4 trillion for accumulated benefits over 15 years.
It recommended that a Bicycle Development Council should be established for the growth and development of the sector in India.