Bicycle Mayor and DULT are partnering to create small but important conveniences for cyclists in every ward
Encouraging a cycling culture does not stop with getting people to start using a bicycle instead of a car or a motorbike. Besides creating cycling lanes, it often comes down to small conveniences. Ask Arjun Swaminathan. The 44-year-old resident of JP Nagar has been cycling almost daily for the last two years. His confidence to cycle has not dipped even as normal traffic has returned with a vengeance after the lockdown. But Swaminathan’s main worry has been finding a safe parking spot for his cycle whenever he is out purchasing vegetables or stopping for a sip of coffee. Like many cyclists in the City, he has no choice but to lock the bicycle to a Bescom pole or a telephone pole.
Fed up with the lack of basic infrastructure to promote the cycling culture in the City, Swaminathan has joined a new initiative by a group of cyclists who call themselves ward councillors for active mobility. The yet-to-be-launched programme is conceptualised by the Bicycle Mayor of Bengaluru, Sathya Sankaran, in partnership with the Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT).
While the authorities are looking at providing cycle-friendly infrastructure in the City, this group which is looking for volunteers in each of the 198 wards, plans to do their bit at the ward level. They plan to hold two major campaigns: encourage small businesses such as retail shops or hotels to provide bicycle stands in their premises as well as promote cycling and walking for short distances particularly among students.
“Through this initiative, we hope to convince many business units such as retail stores and hotels to pledge for the green cause by providing bicycle racks. The mobility councillors will also help DULT in providing data on the condition of footpaths or the scope to introduce cycle lanes in their wards,” said Sathya Sankaran, a resident of Sanjay Nagar.
Sankaran said such a programme was conceptualised after a few cyclists complained about the lack of safe parking facilities in commercial areas as well as businesses chasing away cyclists.
Arjun Swaminathan recalled that many theatres in the early 1990s had cycle stands but such bicycle-friendly facilities have gradually disappeared. “A good bicycle costs no less than Rs 15,000 but there is no infrastructure to lock the cycles in commercial areas. It would not cost much to build a U shaped rack that can hold two bicycles. Even many of the health stores do not have parking facilities for bicycles,” he said.
Suma Arun Kumar, a resident of Sadashivanagar, started cycling regularly after the first wave of covid-19. The 44-year-old, who initially cycled only around her house, now covers a 40-km distance at a stretch. “I have been cycling at least 10-km a day. There are however no options to park and lock bicycles while going out to buy groceries. Even the Metro does not allow cycles inside its stations,” she said.
V Manjula, Commissioner of DULT said that they are working closely with bicyclists to understand issues and concerns faced by them in their neighbourhood. “We will try to provide cycle-friendly intervention based on the inputs they give us,” she said. The DULT, she said, is currently surveying different parts of the City to study the scope of introducing new cycle lanes.