By July 2018, the Chandigarh Administration aims to make the city completely bicycle-friendly. To date, a total of 110-km bicycle track has already been constructed across the city while the work at many roads is still on. According to the UT Administration’s figures, a total of 180-km bicycle track will cover the length and breadth of City Beautiful. The total cost of laying 180-km-long bicycle track across the city is approximately Rs 25 crore. The first phase, already completed, has cost the UT Administration Rs 12 crore. The administration has divided the project into two phases. In the first phase, a total of 110-km-long bicycle track has been completed while the remaining shall be completed in the second phase by July 2018.
As part of the project, the bicycle tracks shall be made safer by installing track markings, dedicated and colour-marked through passages at the roundabouts. In a bid to encourage use of bicycles, Chandigarh Municipal Commissioner Jitender Yadav recently made it mandatory for MC employees to cycle their way to work at least one day per week. To begin with, Wednesday was earmarked as a bicycle day for all the employees.
“We shall also be asking the Chandigarh Traffic Police to sensitise motorists to give way to cyclists on the roads. Even after the cycle tracks are there, I agree that the city is not yet completely safe for cyclists. For this, the mindset of motorists needs to be changed. But I am sure that things will improve. Change does happen, but gradually,” Yadav told Chandigarh Newsline.
“We know that certain bicycle tracks need to be made hindrance-free. At certain places, there are fully grown trees in the way or the tracks are not properly constructed. There are even manholes at certain places and the cycle tracks are not properly lit. We shall be conveying all these issues to the Chandigarh Administration so that using the bicycle tracks can be made more safe and convenient,” Yadav added.
Superintending Engineer, engineering wing of UT Administration, C B Ojha said, “The project [constructing cycle tracks] is still on. Earlier, the tracks would end abruptly, but now we are carving out passages so that the tracks merge at the roundabouts and the cyclists can have a thorough passage without merging into the motor traffic.”
Speaking about the uneven width of the bicycle tracks at certain places, Ojha added, “We also have to keep space constraints in mind. We are making the best use of space available to carve out proper bicycle tracks to offer a convenient and safe ride to cyclists. There are certain portions of various tracks that need repair or reconstruction. All these issues shall also be taken up subsequently.”
There were not many takers for Municipal Commissioner Jitender Yadav’s rule on mandatory bicycle ride to workplace every Wednesday. MC employees feel that merely coming to workplace on a bicycle won’t serve the purpose unless there are proper corresponding facilities at the workplaces. BJP councillor Arun Sood, however, accused the UT Administration of ill-planned construction of bicycle tracks.
“Our city first needs to be made cycle-friendly. Merely making cycle tracks is not sufficient. Has the UT engineering wing seen the condition of cycle tracks? The width is not even proper at certain places. There is no proper pruning of trees. At some places there are encroachments,” Sood said. Bhishm Singh, an MC employee, who had been riding bicycle for the last four decades, has lost all hopes that the city would ever adopt a bicycle-friendly approach.
“In European countries, workplaces supply a dedicated bicycle-storage cage, shower facility, towel service, ironing boards and lockers for employees riding their way to work. Are our workplaces going to give us all such facilities? After pedalling for about an hour to work, you are sweating badly. So where does a person change his clothes? How can he spend his entire day in the office like that and attend official or public meetings? No doubt, it is a good beginning asking employees and officers to take the bicycle route to workplaces, but then the corresponding facilities also need to be strengthened and bicycle tracks need to be made more safe for the daily riders,” said a senior official of Municipal Corporation.
Master Plan 2031
Chandigarh’s Master Plan 2031 lays emphasis on making Chandigarh a pedestrian and cycle-friendly city. It is proposed to revive V-7 roads. However, the engineering wing says that the existing cycle tracks along V3 roads will be improved and provided with proper integration along with the zebra crossings near intersection. A total of 11 longitudinal green belts have been earmarked that are to be developed as green corridors both for pedestrians and cyclists.
Previous attempts to promote cycling failed
To promote cycling in the city, the administration had earlier mooted various proposals. There was a project of giving cycles on rent which failed to attract many takers. In 2003, the Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Development Corporation (CITCO) and NGO Yuvsatta had made cycles available on rent. These included six bicycles at the Sukhna Lake, another 12 at the Sector 17 bus stand while 20 of these were to be availed from Karuna Sadan in Sector 11. While the rental was Rs 50 for half day, it was Rs 100 for the entire day. The situation was such that the project failed and cycles had to be disposed of. Only a few have been stationed at Sukhna for the visitors which doesn’t elicit much response.
From 2013, the UT Administration had been making plans to introduce a facility to rent bicycles from parking lots. The administration was also contemplating rolling out a bicycle-sharing scheme in the city. In 2015, plans to have such a system with a company failed as the company refused to give the desired number of cycles. Also, there were issues like security of cycles and security amount.
The plans ahead
Now under the smart city plan, the Chandigarh Smart City Company Limited plans to have a bicycle-sharing system. The cycle stations will be made at busy points in the city: Panjab University, Sector 17 Plaza, Sukhna Lake, Rose Garden, PGIMER and bus stand. A control room will be set up to check the movement of cycles. Any visitor who takes bicycles will have to get his or her Aadhaar linked with the main command and control system under the project. However, it has been months that the expression of interest was called in and firms had shown interest but things haven’t moved yet.
Number of cyclists dying on roads may come down
At least 51 bicyclists died on Chandigarh roads in the last three years. As per the Chandigarh Traffic Police records, at least 17 cyclists were killed on city roads in 2015, 21 in 2016 and 13 in 2017. The traffic police is hopeful that because of the increase in number of bicycle tracks, the number of fatal road accidents involving bicyclists may come down this year. This year so far, one bicyclist lost his life in a road accident.
DIG (UT) Alok Kumar said, “Indeed, cyclists, pedestrians and two-wheeler riders are the most vulnerable in road accidents across the world. But if we observe the mortality rate of cyclists on Chandigarh roads, we can find that there is some control on deaths of cyclists. Reasons may be many. The dedicated cycle tracks for cyclists can be one of the reasons behind this. As per the figures available with Chandigarh traffic police, the death rate of cyclists is decreasing.” Harman Sidhu, a road safety activist, said, “By upgrading the cycle tracks and also making space for the cyclists at all the roundabouts, Chandigarh can definitely reduce the death rate of cyclists. If we consider the accidents, in which cyclists lost their lives, most of them were killed on main roads.”