Guest Column: Fun, environmentally friendly and good for you, here’s how Chandigarh can become bicycle-friendly
Chandigarh roads were never designed for today’s heavy traffic and what’s to come in the future. Therefore, early action is called for to find ways and means to reduce vehicular traffic by developing alternate means of transportation.
Many cities in the world have tried to limit the number of vehicles on roads, by developing mass transportation facilities such as metro rail and buses and encouraging carpooling and cycling – especially across short distances.
In Chandigarh, some attempts have been made by the engineering wing of the UT administration to assist cyclists to cross over at light points which have been painted red.
Repairs due already
It has also been claimed that 70 km of new cycle tracks have been laid out, but some stretches are already in need of repairs.
Proposals have also been made to light up a stretch of the track from the lake towards Madhya Marg at a cost of Rs 80 lakh. This amount can be better used to make new cycle tracks,
While marking cycle tracks at crossings and light points is a good effort, these are mere ad hoc measures. Without well laid out tracks, these would be inadequate and unsafe and in no way promote cycling culture in the city.
Cyclists must wear helmets and ensure their cycles have suitable reflectors at the rear and in the wheels. Lights are a must too for the night.
The plan in Chandigarh to have 600 dock stations for 5,000 regular as well as battery operated cycles, has not fructified. This too requires a push. We have to make cycling in the city safe to the extent that parents can feel confident sending their children to schools on cycles.
Fortunately, Punjab governor and UT administrator VP Singh Badnore is particularly keen to encourage people to take up cycling. He himself has tried to set an example and demonstrate that even as governor he prefers to cycle.
To put such a scheme in operation, what is called for is a comprehensive plan for layout of cycle tracks within and in between sectors, integrating traffic lights with the movement of cycles. At some spots one side of the road could be dedicated only for cycles.
In some places cycle tracks can be segregated by putting up railings. The location of dock stations for cycles and their hiring too needs to be worked out with due diligence.
Give the job to engineering colleges
The task of working out a comprehensive plan for cycle tracks, location of ‘dock stations’ and integration of traffic lights with the movement of cycles at traffic light points can be given to a few engineering colleges. They can field teams of four to five students working on a two-month deadline. The best and acceptable plan could be offered a prize of Rs 10 lakh.
Such plans should address cycling within sectors and inter-sector movement, as also between Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula.
To encourage children to take to cycling, a track around the lake should be laid out, a few hundred cycles made available with Sundays and holidays dedicated for the purpose. To this end, the Chandigarh administration should work out a plan to lay a safe cycling track around the lake including bridges for cycles over various streams that flow into the lake.
To reduce up and down traffic between Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali, besides a metro rail (which will take time) a large number of small buses (deluxe class – preferably electric ) with capacity range of 10 to 12 passengers should be inducted. Their routes should be carefully worked out across sectors. Small buses will not crowd the roads and also be acceptable to car owners. To that end, vehicle owners too should be encouraged to use the buses for inter-city movement. As a disincentive for using own cars, parking charges should be substantially increased and parking along roads stopped.
The proposal to transform Chandigarh into a cycle friendly city needs to be taken up on priority and it should serve as a model for most other towns of Punjab to emulate.
(The writer is a former deputy chief of army staff and commentator on defence and security matters. Views expressed are personal)