While the Delhi government has been making efforts to promote bicycles for sports enthusiasts, tourist and leisure cyclists, this two-wheeled steerable machine has a long way to go in becoming a reliable mode of transport.
Cyclists say the national capital has failed to provide suitable infrastructure such as enough of dedicated cycle paths for cycles, and they are left to fend for themselves navigating their own routes and favourable stretches in the city.
This is in sharp contrast to European cities Amsterdam and Hague in The Netherlands, where up to 70 per cent of all journeys are made on bicycles.
Cycle paths here are clearly marked, have smooth surfaces, separate signs and lights for those on two wheels, and are wide enough to allow side-by-side cycling and overtaking, according to global non-governmental organisation, World Cycling Alliance.
However, city cyclists are excited about the announcement of a big project. Working on the first mega ‘Cycle Walk’ project, estimated at Rs 550 crore, Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal in September held a meeting and directed the officials of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to pro actively pursue approvals or clearances pending with various agencies for timely completion of the project.
The track will loop around the city like a ring and connect metro stations, bus stands, industrial, recreational, high-density residential areas and business and educational districts.
Nearly 7 km of the track will be elevated, and rest of the stretch will be on surface. Union Home Minister Amit Shah had laid the foundation stone for the Rs 550-crore project just before the Delhi assembly elections in December 2019. The project is expected to be completed in four years.
Cycling enthusiast Jitendra Jassel welcomes this step but feels that a dedicated cycle track cannot erase the problems faced by cyclists throughout the city.
Since the pandemic began, people are extra concerned about their health, which led to a high demand for their own bicycles, notes Jassel. “Policymakers should keep many factors in mind regarding people who use a bicycle only as a sport.
A dedicated track should be devoid of any shopkeepers and obstacles. Most of the cycling tracks in the city, have been encroached upon in many areas. Other motorised two wheelers also get on these tracks, and we have no option but to use the main roads that have unorganised traffic in most areas. Also, high-end cycles cannot be parked like bikes because it has parts which could be easily opened and stolen,” says Jassel.
Jassel claims that there are almost 30 cycling groups with 50-100 members each in Delhi. Problems that most cyclists generally face are two-wheelers and autorickshaws, traffic jams, hawkers and squatters who use the footpaths and vacant lanes.
However, there are also people who do not join any cycling forum but make friends while riding. The cyclists enjoy interacting with fellow riders. There is a sense of camaraderie so even if you go out cycling alone; you can find friends on the way.
According to a Delhi Development Authority (DDA) official, “Under Phase 1 of the project, 36 km of cycle and walking tracks will be developed in Tughlakabad, Sangam Vihar, Saket, Greater Kailash, Sant Nagar, and adjoining localities of south Delhi, will pass through master plan greens – forests areas. Phase 1 is divided in three sub-phases.”
Approximately 11 lakh people in Delhi commute daily on bicycles, and authorities are making efforts to increase the number of cycle users to 50 lakh to cut down pollution levels. Similarly, the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) is working on two dedicated cycle track projects.
“For the first time, we have started a pilot project of a dedicated cycle track that allows cyclists to go inside the Lodhi Garden from Gate No. 5 on Amrita Shergill Marg. Another 11 km-long dedicated cycle track under the mission Cycle4Change is from New Moti Bagh in North Delhi to Nirman Bhawan in Central Delhi. Cycling is an important activity not only for our fitness, health of body and nourishment for the mind, but also for our city’s environment as it reduces pollution, making it eco-friendly for better living,” informed the NDMC official, who said the tender process in underway and the track will be ready within three months.
Another cycle track in the works through the NDMC is around the Nehru Park in Central Delhi, which needs some internal approval but can be completed soon, the NDMC official informed further.
Under the Smart City initiative, cycle tracks are one of the main requirements. But the Lutyens’ Delhi area that is being developed as smart city has very few dedicated cycling paths. Still, disciplined traffic cyclists prefer the area due to the wide roads.
There are approximately 18 metro stations across Delhi provide bicycles on rent. The major player in the sector was a ‘Greenolution’ company, which supplies cycles to eight locations.
The company had tied up with Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), IIT-Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru University to provide bicycles. But it was taken over by another private company that provides e-bikes at these locations.
“The scene of shared-mobility is shrinking in the national capital because there is a problem in the behaviour of equal distribution at all of these points. We have observed that in some cycle stands, there are many bicycles while some others have very few. This creates disproportion in the availability of bicycles at these points. Any company working in this domain needs to figure out a way on how to manage that and create uniformity. One solution is to hire a company which just does this job of keeping a track of all the bicycles at all the points and if there are less at some and more at other stands then they to the distribution themselves” said A John, a cyclist enthusiast, who earlier worked with a private company in this field.
The DDA is also working on a plan to establish 250 bicycle stands to promote e-bikes in the Dwarka region. Akash Gupta, CEO of Zypp Electric bikes said that people are getting more drawn to electric vehicles.
“Weather has a big role to play if people are losing interest in using the usual bicycles as a mode of transport. We have a long way before we can compare our bicycling environment with some European countries. In Delhi-NCR, there is good demand of e-vehicles now as they are environment-friendly and serve the purpose,” said Gupta, whose company Zypp Electric provides around 1,300 e-bikes in Delhi, which are priced Rs 65,000 onwards.
Facts & figures: cycling tracks in the city
NDMC pilot projects
Cyclists can use the dedicated cycle track to enter Lodhi Garden from Gate No. 5. An 11 km-long track under Cycle4Change is from New Moti Bagh in North Delhi to Nirman Bhawan in Central Delhi
Ridge Road (Buddha Garden)
Noida-Greater Noida Expressway
70% of all journeys in Amsterdam and Hague in the Netherlands are made on bicycles
6% of urban trips worldwide are made on bicycles and e-bikes, according to a 2015 study. It estimates that by 2050, this figure will rise to 14%
Across the globe, the percentage of children who walk or cycle to school has decreased from 82% to 14% in the last 30 years
Although happy with major strides in cycle infrastructure, from the upcoming Rs 550 crore ‘Cycle Walk’ project to metro stations providing e-bikes, cyclists in the city say basic obstacles in their daily commute still persist, reports Siddhanta Mishra