In a city where cycling has been promoted through glamorous campaigns, it is a pity that people who have taken to the healthy way of life are steamrolled by heavy vehicles on congested roads. Many cyclists opine that dedicated cycling lanes are the only solution to their woes.
Battling for space with motor vehicles, cycling 20 kms everyday from Koramangala to his office on M M Road, Frazer Town is a nightmare, says Rishab, adding, “In Bangalore, we don’t have proper footpaths, what can cyclists hope for? Cycling lanes being created and enforced seems like wishful thinking.” Moreover, he stresses, that existing lanes have already been encroached upon by vehicle owners to park.
Lack of dedicated lanes for cyclists is dissuading many from taking it up. Most who give it a thought wonder if cycling is safe.
Says Nikhil Rammohan of Cyclist for Life, an organisation that is trying to get more people to ditch cars and take up cycling, "People who approach us have their fears. They fear being bullied by bigger vehicles or worse, getting hit. Another problem is that no one respects cyclists. They are pushed to one side.” Nikhil has been cycling for the past seven years and is always cautious on the city's roads.
Suraj from Bums On The Saddle, a shop in Jayanagar for cycle enthusiasts has a similar take. He says that lack of cycling lanes is inhibiting the young from taking up cycling. “People are concerned about safety. In Bangalore, roads are not wide enough for regular traffic, what space can be provided for cyclists? Nonetheless, it's cyclists who have to raise awareness on their needs,” he says. It takes Suraj 45 minutes to reach his office in Jayanagar from RT Nagar. “Everyone is in a hurry. No one cares for cyclists who are considered a very small segment. So no one goes out of their way to help us,” he rues.
B N Vijayakumar, Jayanagar MLA claims that despite cycle lanes being encroached upon in his constituency, not a single complaint has been lodged. “We took several measures to save the lanes in Jayanagar. But people are hardly bothered. If they had issues, they would have reported it. We have got no complaint calls,” he says.
He adds that the number of cyclists is very low and if lanes in Jayanagar are not being used, what guarantees their use in other areas. Even though authorities claim that it is the citizens who don’t care much for cycling, there are some organisations who have been working to revive cycle lanes.
Ride A Cycle Foundation (RACF) will soon start a door-to door campaign to spread awareness about cycle lanes. “We will ask people to stop encroaching cycle lanes,” says Murali Ramnath of RACF.
He adds that the government can’t simply ignore cyclists and will have to come up with a way to incorporate cycle lanes on roads. “We are trying to get the traffic police to regulate the lanes. It will take time but we need to get it done,” he says.
With talk of creating cycle lanes in Madiwala on, it remains to be seen if these lanes too will be turned into parking lots or will they truly serve to encourage cyclists.