To make cycling as a way of life, we need separate tracks, the will for change

Covid revived the culture of cycling in a big way in India, especially in metros like Delhi. It was heartening to see families with small children moving on their respective cycles on the roads. Not only could school-going children be seen cycling once again on the roads but college-going youngsters and office goers could be seen having dug out their cycles from the storerooms and moving in groups on the bicycles.

It appeared then that the fast-diminishing culture of cycling in metros had revived and the phenomenon would kick in a new trend for post covid times. But alas! We are back to the cozy selves of private vehicles and public transport. Most of those who had resolved to continue to cycle around have packed up their ride.

While no one can discount the benefits of cycling for health and also for the environment, why is it that in India we hardly see young children picking up cycling for their regular school commuting or office goers adopting cycling as a means of transport of choice.

On June 3 every year, the world celebrates “World Bicycle Day” to raise awareness about cycling and its benefits for health and mental well-being.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also encouraged people to take up this cheap and environmentally friendly way of transport and wanted the nation to “draw inspiration” from Mahatma Gandhi, who advocated for a “sustainable and healthy lifestyle to safeguard the environment.”

He tweeted an old photo of Mahatma riding a bicycle, giving an acronym for “life” — “Lifestyle for Environment.”

“Today is World Bicycle Day, and who better to commemorate it than Mahatma Gandhi?”

Gandhi is someone to look up to if you want to build a sustainable and successful life.

“It’s all about living a healthy lifestyle,” he tweeted.

During pandemic lockdowns people from big cities took out their bicycles and realized the immense benefits attached to this age-old mode of transport, but most of these people have gone back to their previous lifestyle.

It is a common complaint of parents who discourage their children from going to school by bicycle that vehicular traffic on the metro roads is neither pedestrian nor bicycle-friendly in India.

Even the youths insist that without separate bicycle tracks like in European countries it is not possible to use cycling as a regular mode of transport. Plus, the long distances to work and college discourage people from cycling on regular days. People also insist that government, besides creating appropriate infrastructure for cycling in metros, should also encourage the culture of cycling.

Not popular in metros?

People require roadways that are free of manhole covers and barks. Drivers who drive on the wrong side pose the most danger. These drivers must be sanctioned, and their vehicles must be seized. A two-foot bike lane must be built behind every bus stop so that cyclists do not have to overtake a bus. The government should create regulations and infrastructure to ensure the safety of cyclists. Make temporary interventions through tactical urbanism, construct pop-up lanes, stimulate adoption through corporate incentives and state-sponsored special programs, and undertake public awareness campaigns.

All of these things will have a significant socioeconomic impact.

Children must be able to safely navigate the highways.

Increase the number of free parking spaces in public areas.

Union home minister Amit Shah in January 2022 laid the stone of the Delhi Cycle Walk, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) said in a press statement.

The first phase of the Delhi Cycle Walk project will cover 36 kilometers and connect neighborhoods that include Badarpur, Tughlaqabad, Saket, Malviya Nagar, Chirag Delhi, Kalkaji, Nehru Place, and Vasant Kunj. It will also cover large parts of the Jahapanah forests and other green spaces, senior DDA officials said.

According to the DDA, the project also covers several lakes and water bodies.

“Cycling tracks [will] connect business districts, offices, schools, colleges, and metro stations,” the DDA said in a statement. “Delhi Cycle Walk will be a controlled track with defined and secure entrance points near residential areas and exit points near places of work, schools, etc. These points of entry shall be called origin-destination plazas and shall have facilities such as washrooms, tea, coffee, cycle repair points, vehicle parking.”

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has a bicycle sharing system in place at a few stations, and now the DMRC is partnering with Yulu to offer electric bikes at nine metro stations.

Yulu has deployed a fleet of 250 electric motorcycles around Delhi as part of its collaboration agreement. The Yulu Miracle e-bikes have a peak speed of 25 mph and a range of 60 kilometers on a single charge.

But what is the true picture? Yulu is a nice choice for people to go around the traffic problem and clean up their environment, but what people do is steal smart bikes and don’t return them to the stations. Bikers utilize the bicycle track to get around the gridlock.

Benefits of bicycling

Bike riding is a low-impact and enjoyable form of exercise for people of all ages. Cycling to the park, the neighborhood store, school, or even work is a simple way to incorporate cycling into your daily routine.

Being healthy improves not just one’s physical fitness but also one’s emotional well-being. Weight management, boosts your immunity. Stress reduction reduces the risk of heart disease. And your carbon footprint is reduced.

With growing cases of heart ailments in youth and elderlies in India and the country being notorious for a high diabetic population, it is all the more important to get back to cycling while not disapproving of how much we can cut down on our fossil fuel by adopting cycling.