Cycle to work: it’s possible, and good

Since traffic is a mess in Bengaluru, in traveling to and from work daily, the lack of either the first or last mile connectivity to and from a Metro or a bus station, is forcing many Bengalureans to take up cycling as a mode of commute.

Cycling helps escape heavy traffic, takes very little space on the road and lets you easily avoid most congested roads, contributes to your workout, brightens your mood, and all of it at a negligible expense.

That the city is home to some of the most clogged routes in the country today and is famed for heavy traffic, road congestion and vehicular pollution is well known.

With over 77 lakh vehicles occupying a road length of 14,000 kilometres in the urban area, the number of moving vehicles is much more than the roads are able to accommodate.

Bringing in a scalable, affordable, efficient and clean solution to de-congest traffic within the city, cycling provides an answer for first mile, last mile and short distance commutes.

What about the infrastructure within Bengaluru to encourage cycling? Safety is a big issue while riding a cycle to work in the city. Bad infrastructure and roads in the city have always triggered the fear of losing your balance and getting tripped up.

While cars do keep at a respectful distance from cyclists, it’s the two and three-wheelers who have a tendency to brush past very close to you. Most two-wheeler riders in the city willfully travel on the wrong side of the road, care two hoots about jumping traffic signals and are the most dangerous of all. An added fear is apprehension about handling punctures on the road.

Creation of cycle lanes within the city would promote cycling and address the issue of safety that prevents people from taking up cycling. Cycle lanes smoothen movement of cyclists and provide them a feeling of safety.

Cycle lanes exist on today’s ‘TenderSure’ roads, but a city-wide network is needed to promote a biking culture in the city and for us to enjoy being able to dodge traffic, incurring a fraction of the expenditure of a motor vehicle, and with no parking hassles to boot!

Several vehicle-free zones in Cubbon Park and in the central business district, like Commercial Street, are gradually being introduced in Bengaluru, and this should be reason enough to encourage cycling on a large scale.

To reduce congestion and pollution, the state government, through the Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT), is pushing cycling and public cycle-sharing, as a sustainable transport alternative.

Cycle-sharing systems

The BBMP has been tasked with providing cycle-parking slots in the city and to begin infrastructure works for bicycle parking hubs at 271 locations in Central, North and East Bengaluru.

Spread over an area of 28 sq km, automated cycle-sharing systems will allow users to take the cycle from a parking hub, use it as desired and return it to either the same or any other parking hub. 

Citizen campaigns such as the ‘CycleToWork’ crusade are doing a lot to encourage cycling. Using a website to enroll and advise cyclists, several organisations across Bengaluru use the ‘CycleToWork’ network to track cycling effort through GPS data. Riders to work start the app before beginning their ride and stop it after reaching their workplace to record the distance.

Companies compete to promote cycling using data that gets aggregated on a website. Participants are delighted to cut expenses while getting a workout and reducing their carbon footprint, even celebrate the ‘World Bicycle Day’!

Trends in the transportation sector are changing rapidly and though two-wheelers, cars and buses dominate today’s roads, the horrendous traffic is forcing people to re-look at commuting in the future.

Commuting by the Metro, renting or booking a cab on Ola and Uber platforms have already reduced the necessity of buying a vehicle. Use of micro- mobile vehicles that run on manpower that are free of harmful petroleum products does not damage the environment nor contribute to the existing high rates of air and noise pollution.

Micro-mobility solution providers such as Yulu, Bounce, PEDL and Lejonet have been licensed to provide alternatives using technology to create a network of shared dock-less bicycles that can be rented through a pay-per-use business model.

Since the system is fully automated, merely downloading an app allows users to take a cycle from a cycle hub, use it as desired and return it to either the same or any other hub. 

What better symbolism for the cause of cycling than to have newspapers splashed with pictures of Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, dressed in formals, cycling to his office in New Delhi to kick-start his second innings in the ministry!

Bengalureans should cycle for a better tomorrow by pedalling in this micro-mobility change.

(The writer is a former director on the Board of BEML)

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