Metrolife: Pedalling in a new culture

The city has its share of adventure and fitness enthusiasts who cycle. But the city’s infrastructure and road conditions are not the best for cyclists. While a Bicycle Mayor is being selected for the city, Bengaluru’s cyclists talk about various issues that need to be looked in to advocate cycling seriously.

Who is a Bicycle Mayor?

A Bicycle Mayor will be the public face for cycling in the city. He or she will look to creating opportunities and innovative solutions for the cycling community, taking up initiatives and be persistent in achieving goals/visions and collaborating with local NGOs and communities for expanding and improving the cycling community. The candidate will have to choose three focus points for a two-year campaign.

The Bicycle Mayor Programme is brought by ESAF, an NGO working to promote sustainable transport options through their various advocacy programs across seven cities in India, in association with ByCS, a Dutch organisation based in Amsterdam. ByCS is working the ambitious goal of a world where 50 percent of all city trips will be by bicycle by 2030.  

Manju George, senior program manager, ESAF India, details, “Our organisation is one of the core organising members of Bengaluru Coalition for Open Streets (BCOS) who initiated the Cycle Day in October 2013. The day has grown with the help of Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT), Government of Karnataka, Bangalore Traffic Police and the 36 community partners and this is the next step ahead.”

Do we have a big cycling community? Manju quips, “When we initiated the Cycle Day, it was organised only on the last Sunday of the month. Within nine months, neighbourhoods started showing interest and now we have 36 neighbourhoods adopted into this system. The increase in Cycle Days proves the interest and growth of the community.” 

While the Bicycle Mayor seems like a promising idea, cyclists in the city raise many factors to be addressed to build a strong cycling culture.

Dasarathi G V, an entrepreneur, who has been using cycle as his only means of transport, says that it is quite a challenge to cycle in the city. “In other countries across the world which encourage cycling, there are special signals for cyclists. This helps them navigate safer and faster,” he says.

Sathya Sankaran, an IT strategist and a founding member of BCOS, feels that a Bicycle Mayor sounds like an exciting initiative. “Such initiatives are required to catalyse cycling. A representative for the non-motor community is needed. There are many issues to be addressed for cyclists. Cycle lanes are much needed. If travelling on roads like Ring Road or Bellary Road, there is a safety concern among cyclists as there is no space for them. When the BBMP lays new roads, specific space to cyclists should be assigned,” he says.

Ramesh Sreekantan, a mathematician with Indian Statistical Institute, navigates through Malleswaram to Bangalore University and uses smaller roads in Rajajinagar and Vijaynagar. “Many of these roads are very narrow but are still two-way. Smaller roads should be made one way and parking should be restricted to one side. This will make it a relaxed ride for cyclists,” he says.

Ramesh adds, “A proper database with information about puncture repair shops also needs to be created. Such shops are decreasing in the city but if the cycling culture increases so will such shops.” 

Change in traffic rules, maybe?

“There is a need for a non-motorised transport policy. According to the Motor Vehicles Act, there are rules and penalties for motor vehicles. A new system which addresses issues like a cyclist being hit by a car or the theft of a bicycle is needed. RTO programmes which make sure that the motorist is sensitive to cyclists and pedestrians are also a must,” says Sathya Sankaran, a founding member of BCOS.

What’s new?

“There is a considerable increase in the number of people cycling for short errands in the 36 neighbourhoods. We have requests from people to learn cycling and a bicycling school has started in Cubbon Park and Marathahalli too. On an average, there are 4 to 5 newcomers every Sunday.”
Manju George, senior program manager, ESAF India.

More exposed to pollution

“A big problem is that cyclists inhale the same amount of smoke and chemicals but it affects them more as the metabolism is high. The same amount of atmospheric pollution affects cyclists five times more.” Dasarathi G V, An avid cyclist.

 

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