BENGALURU: Chief Minister Siddaramaiah announced in his recent budget that Bengaluru will emulate Mysuru in introducing ‘cycles for hire.’ But how cyclist-friendly is our city? Will cyclists be ready to risk their lives pedalling amidst cars and two-wheelers on the congested roads in the absence of dedicated lanes?
Apart from small stretches of cycling lanes in a few parts of the city, 45 km of cycling tracks in Jayanagar, which covered major roads, was demarcated in 2012, but the plan ended up as a big flop a few months later. The `2.5 crore project was planned as a pilot by the Department of Urban Land Transport (DULT). It is now implementing another pilot scheme at HSR Layout, set to cost `18.5 crore, for a 22-km cycling lane network.
A reality check of the cycling lanes in Jayanagar revealed a sorry picture. The white paint drawn on the asphalt by the side of the carriageway to demarcate these lanes has almost vanished. It is one long parking lane now. Even the space outside the office of Jayanagar MLA B N Vijaykumar, who gave a big push to introduce the cycling lanes, is taken over by cars.
“If at all any part of the city can have cycles-only lanes, it can only be Jayanagar with wide roads and footpaths,” the MLA states. However, the areas earmarked for the cycle lanes are not appropriate, he points out. “We have such wide footpaths on all our main roads. A small portion of the footpath needs to be carved out for a dedicated cycling track,” the MLA feels.
Lack of enforcement and education are responsible for the failure of this scheme, stresses H R Murali of ‘Namma Nimma Cycle Foundation.’ Murali ought to know as his group went around schools and colleges after these lanes were introduced requesting students to utilise the newly-created cycling lanes.
“The Department of Urban Land Transport provided us `1.5 lakh to publicise the scheme and we mobilised an additional `1 lakh for the same,” he states. Much more needs to be done by the government if the concept has to reach more and more people. “In the absence of any understanding, most of them thought the space earmarked was for parking,” he remarked.
Traffic police did not come forward to enforce it strictly. “We wanted to put signages to publicise it but were not permitted to do that by the police.”
K G Sunil, who created a platform ‘Cycle for Cause’, feels integration of such lanes across the city is essential. “Presently, the existing lanes are specific to a locality. If I start cycling from Jayanagar, I will have a dedicated cycle lane until I cross the area. The minute I enter the neighbouring area, there is no such lane,” he says. However, Sunil, a freelance consultant, continues to ride his cycle four days a week to reach his clients.
A small stretch of 35 metres of the planned project HSR Layout is getting ready for cyclists near Basaveswara temple. A 6-km track around Madiwala Lake is dedicated to walkers and cyclists.
According to DULT sources involved in the scheme, Jayanagar was taken up as a pilot project where lane marking for about 100 metres was done on the road to enable cyclists to safely negotiate junctions. “The learning we gained from this experience was that without separate cycle lanes, it is difficult to reserve space even for temporary use of cyclists, as other road users usurp the space for parking or movement,” the source said.
Interaction with a few here reveal pessimism as well as lack of awareness. Farhan Sharief, who was a resident of Jayanagar and moved out recently, says he never knew about the existence of such lanes. “I regularly used the cycling lanes created inside Infosys campus in Electronics City before I moved to a different company. I had no clue Jayanagar had cycling tracks.”
Raghunandan, a civil engineer, says introduction of the lanes was a sheer waste of money. “Money needs to be spent on improving footpaths instead.”