BANGALORE: Last year, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) took a rather large leap towards bolstering support for more sustainable forms of travel by unveiling 40km of bicycle lanes in Jayanagar. However, with automotive vehicles using the lanes as parking space and little-to-no use of them by cyclists, many are questioning the success of the initiative.
The agenda of the project was to create safe routes to school for students and was highlighted in a report titled “Bicycle Friendly Streets in Jayanangar, Bangalore” submitted by Gubbi Labs at the insistence of Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) in 2011. The 36 educational institutions dotted around Jayanagar therefore made it a prime spot for setting up this Rs 2.5 crore pilot project (students traveling to school have been the primary target for this program).
A local school student who loves strolling around on his cycle said, “when I go on my cycle in the lane, it’s a mess as I never get a place to go through it because four wheelers are using that as a parking place which is actually made for cyclers comfort. It is very disappointing in my day-to-day life.”
One of the area’s shopkeepers shows his worries by saying that, “I find it very chaotic when I see people parking their cars in cycle lane, road becomes very congested and traffic blocks the way to my shop.”
Drivers using the lanes as parking space are one of the major gripes of the project. Insufficient demand for these lanes by cyclists (coupled with the fact that all lanes are on main roads, meaning cyclists are thrown into the traffic mix which could make many riders feel unsafe) has meant that all that spare space next to the footpath is being overrun by parked cars and other vehicles.
Drivers caught parking their vehicles in the bicycle lanes are subject to fines, though the fines are seldom handed out. Even prior to their completion and official inauguration the lanes were already being occupied by motorised four-wheelers instead of manual two-wheelers.
Sandeep Janardhan a hospitality management professional has this to say, “I did not see any difference in the number bicycle users in Jayanagar after the cycle tracks have been laid, but there has been quite an increase in the number of riders for reasons related to health. Some news to happy about is that I have seen many people of even the upper class use cycles to commute by which they reduce not just the traffic but also cut down the pollution.”
Cycling is a good exercise and increases blood circulation. It helps burn calories i.e. about 70 per hour on an average. Pedalling involves low impact action and takes the weight of the body, it useful for those who cannot do high impact sports that effect their joints due to pressure.
Alongside health benefits, cycling helps reduce pollution and cuts down on vehicular emissions and this was one of BBMP’s primary objectives for instigating the bicycle lane project. On average, cars produce about 0.3 kg of carbon dioxide per kilometre. For every kilometre you cycle, you save the same amount of carbon dioxide that is used to power one 60 watt lightbulb for five hours.
It is also a good pastime which most people enjoy as kids but abandon when they become adults. Think you’re too old to cycle? Russian author Leo Tolstoy started learning to ride a bicycle at the age of 67 and there have been many other inspiring people who gave heed to cycling and advocated it. One such quote from British physician and writer seems highly relevant in today’s world, “When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”
It is perhaps pre-emptive to write off BBMP’s bicycle lane initiative as a failure as behavioural change (in this case, changing people’s transport behaviour) is a long and often slow process. The teething problems of this bike lane initiative will hopefully act as learning curves for BBMP and other city authorities looking to implement a similar project elsewhere.
Author: Abhishek Jagini/ RESET editorial
Follow Abhishek Jagini on Twitter: @AbhishekJagini