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Spot the pedaller

City roads in India are designed for motorists and the cyclist is treated like a second-class citizen, writes V Date.

india Updated: Jul 28, 2006 03:36 IST

A number of cyclists met New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in June following the death of three cyclists on the road and demanded better facilities for cycling. If Mumbai had this kind of social consciousness, our streets would be flooded with protests. On June 12, Raju Makasare, 32, travelling on his cycle died at Dadar. It was not an accident. The State was responsible for his death in more ways than one. An eye-witness account stated that the cyclist was pushed by a traffic policeman at a signal crossing. He fell down and was run over by a BEST bus.

Mumbai’s traffic system clearly serves the interests of those travelling by cars. For years now, automobiles, including  VIP cars with red lights, routinely jump the signal right in front of Mantralaya. A former inspector general of police  V.W. Pradhan, who lives near Mantralaya, regularly complains about the menace, but to no use. One can imagine what happens to less privileged complainants.

A cyclist’s death at the hands of the police caused one of the worst riots in Australia. The Redfern riots began as a young  aboriginal boy, Tom Hickey, was pushed by a policeman, fell on a metal fence and died in February 2004.

Our system routinely harasses cyclists — the police impound cycles, impose fines. Pedestrians, too, are treated like  third-class citizens.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone has ensured that the city becomes more cyclist-friendly. The city is investing £ 20 million on cycling lanes. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley wants to make the city the most bicycle-friendly in the the US. Already a number of lanes are  provided and a large bicycle parking facility with 12,000 sq ft. was inaugurated  in 2004. India needs far more facilities for cyclists and pedestrians than countries in the West. Commuting by cycle not only saves money and reduces congestion but it also cuts pollution.

Unfortunately, our authorities are not even thinking on these lines. President George Bush, the leader of a country with the largest number of automobiles, rides the bicycle —  his falls from his cycle making it to the news. In Europe, photographs of top politicians riding bicycles are quite common. One is yet to see an Indian politician, communists included, who rides a bicycle. And one would have thought India, more than any other nation, would be the place where a cyclist feels most at home.