BANGALORE: The bicycle tracks in Jayanagar, inaugurated in 2012, have been taken over by motorists to park their vehicles and nothing is being done to fix the problem. Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) and traffic police pass the buck around. The commissioner of DULT, V Manjula, first corrects us by announcing that these are not cycle tracks per say but sections of space near the many junctions in Jayangar, that will help cyclists navigate the roads safely. "But we've learned from the mistakes we made in Jayanagar. Motorists aren't ready to share space on roads with cyclists yet. The purpose of those cycling lanes is not being served. Now we're planning on making segregated cycle lanes in Jayanagar. We're still in the planning stages, so it'll be a while before they materialise," says Manjula.
When asked if the roads of Jayanagar are wide enough to accommodate cycle lanes, she says, "We're only looking at the wider roads in these areas and will limit ourselves to making cycle tracks." The city traffic police were also sent letters from the DULT office so as to turn the cycling tracks into no-parking zones, but they did not respond favourably, according to Manjula.
Assistant Commissioner of Police (traffic) Dayanand says that the cycling tracks in Jayanagar were created without consulting the traffic police. "They were created without permission, so we cannot fine people for parking there," he states. Moreover, he adds, that cycle tracks will be taken up for parking, unless there are enough cyclists using them." Ask him what that number would be for Bangalore and he replies, "No clue."
A survey conducted by Fields of View, a research organisation that works in areas of urban systems and public safety and security, states that the main issues concerning the cycle tracks in Jayanagar are: cars parked on the lanes, very few cyclists, too much traffic making it unsafe for cyclists, lanes built over cycling spaces, inappropriate lane widths, confusing signage, lanes too close to fast moving traffic, and the absence of any marketing of these cycling lanes.
Mayank Rungta, a cyclist who only commutes by cycles on a daily basis, says "The cycle tracks don't exist any more. They have been buried under the newly laid roads. When they existed, they were either taken up by cars or just dug up. So it was basically just good money wasted. They should have just grown trees or preserved the existing ones."
There are better ways to mark the cycling lanes, according to Mayank. A judicious use of physical separators is the solution, he says. "But that won't happen either. These guys spent `13 to 17 crore just for painting the road. Imagine how much money will be used up to build physical separators," he says.
Traffic expert M N Sreehari disqualifies the markings on Jayanagar roads as cycle tracks. "Can you really call them tracks?" he questions. "There are trees and cars parked in between. How are cyclists supposed to navigate through them? Cycling on Bangalore's roads is more dangerous than walking because the cycle is so much slower than the rest of the traffic," says the government adviser on traffic.
He feels such tracks are more feasible in gated communities, where cycling is relatively risk-free. "We try to compare ourselves to other countries, but there they have excellent roads. Here, there's a struggle all the time to widen roads for the rest of the traffic, then how is it possible to create separate lanes for cyclists? A sum of ` 10 crore has been spent in painting the roads for cyclists in Jayanagar...such an atrocious waste of money," he exclaims indignantly.
"Most of the time, cars are parked on these cycle tracks. But the last time I walked through some of these areas, they had very few cars. So perhaps they've started regulating parking," informs Supreeth S, a regular cyclist.
When asked what changes he'd like to see that would make a regular cyclists' life easier, Supreeth says, "Firstly, we need better public transport and parking infrastructure. Travelling long distances might not be feasible on a cycle all year around. That last mile connect is easy to solve by having safe bicycle parking and public transport to compliment it. We need some kind of advance communication for users of regular routes. If some work is happening in certain areas; cables being laid, BWSSB works and other things that disrupt a cyclist's regular routine; that should be communicated. Basically treating cyclists as part of the traffic too. The facts that the numbers are too low might be a factor against this."
"We also need access to cheaper and better designed air masks. Right now there are high-end ones available which not everyone can afford. Lastly, some sort of support for punctures and breakdowns is needed," Supreeth says.