Mobility in urban areas is becoming difficult, thanks to the increasing number of vehicles. While there are many alternatives for speedy, affordable and clean mass transportation systems, one of the most sustainable modes of personal transport continues to be the bicycle.
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, the share of bicycle transport has been decreasing in almost all cities for which there are valid reasons. Climatic conditions in some parts, inadequate infrastructure and limited comfort are some of them. However, there is still a sizeable number of persons in most of urban India who, even today, use the bicycle as a means of transport. The question, therefore, is whether the city is designed to accommodate cyclists.
While we have master plans, we hardly have any provisions for cyclists. The master plan of a city, as a macro document, provides various proposed land uses and major transportation proposals. But no specifics are ever mentioned in them.
Most of the well-planned cities across the world have bicycle master plans (BMP). For instance, London, New York, Los Angles, Seattle, Portland, Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, etc have well-thought-out BMPs. One of the comprehensive BMPs in recent times is that of the City of Portland in Oregon, USA, prepared for 2030. It aims to make Portland cleaner and healthier with a sustainable transport system.
The advantages of cycling are many — streets are safer, reduced levels of air and noise pollution, a cut in emissions, less dependency on fossil fuels, comfort of personalised form of transport and affordable reduced use of space. It also improves the health of the residents.
Specific cycling corridors, neighbourhoods and circuits could be planned and properly-designed infrastructure is put in place for cyclists to travel safely and smoothly. Other measures include creating parking bays, providing ample lighting and resting places, and segregation with other modes of transport in the city.
(The author is an urban expert and professor, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi)