‘Cycling safety non-existent in Delhi’

To avoid accidents, as well as for personal protection, cycling enthusiasts in the Capital say they use safety measures such as wearing helmets and bright and reflective clothing, as well as using front and rear lights to ensure people spot them on the road.
People cycling at Rajpath in Delhi (Image used only for representation)
People cycling at Rajpath in Delhi (Image used only for representation)
Published on Apr 02, 2022 02:34 AM IST
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By, New Delhi

It’s been nine months since 50-year-old Manish Jayal met with an accident in southeast Delhi’s Sunlight Colony while riding his bicycle with a group of friends. After spending four days in a hospital and being immobile for a month, he was finally able to move. A fitness coach who has been riding bicycles for 14 years, he says that there is no respect for cyclists on Delhi-NCR roads.

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“Riding a bicycle in itself is tough because roads are cleaned in the middle. We ride on the left, where there’s mud and litter. On top of that, vehicle drivers expect that cyclists will give way to them instead of them changing their lane for us,” says Jayal, who started running in January but hasn’t started cycling yet. “In western countries, drivers give preference to pedestrians and cyclists but here, people don’t even look at us.”

In the last 14 years, he says, “the number of vehicles has increased, but there is no change in people’s road etiquette”.

Priti Agarwal, a 40-year-old cyclist and a businesswoman, says that she has been cycling for two years now but doesn’t have the courage to ride if she doesn’t have a cycling partner.

“We hear and witness incidents of snatching, accidents, ogling and what not. In Delhi-NCR, a woman doesn’t feel safe riding alone. I’ve met cyclists from Pune and south India who say they don’t face such problems,” she says.

She also says there is a need for awareness among people and a general willingness to help. “We lost four cyclists in one year. If they had received immediate help after meeting with an accident, they might have been saved,” she said.

Rajesh Maurya, a 43-year-old cyclist, says that while there are cycling lanes on some stretches, they are not maintained. “There’s no space for us to cycle there because they’re occupied by hawkers, stray animals or parked vehicles. They should be maintained,” he says.

Cyclists said they use personal safety measures such as wearing helmets and bright and reflective clothing, as well as using front and rear lights to ensure people spot them on the road.

This comes despite various agencies claiming they working on developing cyclist-friendly infrastructure in the Capital, including dedicated cycling lanes as part of the government’s 540km road redesign project.

The Delhi Development Authority (DDA), for instance, said it has taken up two major projects for cycling infrastructure--a 16km-long dedicated cycling track in Dwarka along the Metro corridor and a 200km-long continuous track for cycling and walking connecting the green spaces in south Delhi.

Despite these moves, experts have said the safety of cyclists is a major concern, especially after the pandemic when a large number of people started cycling in the Capital, as there are no continuous cycling tracks and demarcations on arterial roads for cyclists.

Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy), Centre for Science and Environment, said that while redesigning roads, the focus should be on reducing the speed differential between vehicles and other road users.

“While designing roads, importance is given to the speed of vehicles and providing them with uninterrupted access. By doing this, we are ignoring other road users. At a time when the focus is on zero-emission, we need to design roads keeping the safety of pedestrians and cyclists in mind. We have to reduce the speed differential between vehicles and other road users.”

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