Encroachments, debris and garbage take over cycling track on Delhi’s MG Road
Ram Kumar, 35, a resident of Chhattarpur who works at a hotel in Ghitorni, cycles daily to work. It takes him less than 30 minutes to cover a distance of 5-6km, but it is a “huge risk” as he rides on the main carriageway of the busy Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road (National Highway-236).
He prefers to ride close to the metal beam crash barriers, which separate the carriageways from the cycling track and pavement, constructed on either side of the road. “It is a huge risk, but I prefer to cycle, as my home is not very far and doesn’t cost much,” said Kumar.
Like Kumar, not many use the dedicated cycle track and risk their lives daily by riding on the main road, dodging the high-speed vehicles because the 8-10-foot wide cycling track and pavement have either been encroached or blocked with debris or garbage.
At a time when the Delhi government and other agencies are making efforts to develop cycling tracks in the city to promote the use of non-motorised transport, the continuous, dedicated tracks on MG road are a picture in contrast.
The cycle tracks are dug-up at several locations by agencies laying utilities without proper barricading, waste and debris is strewn around, protruding trees and bushes cover the pavements at several locations, the tracks are broken at several places and encroached by shopkeepers, street vendors and vehicles and open manholes on pavements make them dangerous.
Developed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) in 2010, the 10-12km (approx.) stretch between Chhattarpur and Delhi-Gurugram border was handed over to the Delhi government’s Public Works Department in 2013 for maintenance.
Just 50 metres away from Ghitoni Metro station, the track has turned into a dumping ground with stray cattle feeding on the waste. Pedestrians cover their face as they walk on the uneven pavement next to it.
Nikhil Mittal, a resident of Kamla Nagar, has been using the Metro for the past 8-9 years to commute between his home and his shop at Ghitorni market. “The station is hardly 200 metres away from my store, but it is a nightmare to walk on this stretch. A lot of shop owners here commute via Metro to avoid the traffic jams. But reaching our stores is a challenge,” said Mittal.
The tracks in Sultanpur, Ghitorni, Aya Nagar are encroachment by shop owners to display their goods and vehicles are haphazardly parked on it. Anjali Sati, who works with a private firm in Sultanpur, said, “My office is at a walking distance. But the pavements are either encroached or badly maintained with open manholes at several locations. During evening hours, I prefer to take an auto. The area is often not well-lit during evening hours,” said Sati.
Dotted with urbanised villages, which today have become a hub for high-end furniture stores and offices, the area has farmhouses, commercial establishments, hotels and people living on rent.
Vedpal, Aya Nagar councillor, said apart from the local villagers, there is a large number of people belonging to economically weaker sections who work in the service industry as guards, peons, helps, etc in the commercial establishments situated in the area or neighbouring Gurugram.
“The area has a large population of people who cycle to work to save money. While the government is planning new tracks, it is doing little to maintain the existing infrastructure and could benefit thousands of people. If the tracks are maintained well, it can be a great space to cycling enthusiasts as one gets a clear 12-13km stretch to cycle,” said Vedpal, who had written to Delhi PWD several time to repair and maintain the tracks.
Amit Bhatt, head of transport at WRI India, said efforts should be made to maintain these tracks. “While new cycling tracks should be developed, efforts should be made to maintain the ones which exist. The interlocking tiles on the tracks have to be replaced with a smooth surface. With minor design changes at intersections, the tracks can be made more accessible,” said Bhatt, who often used to cycle from his home in Gurugram to his office in Ghitorni before it shifted elsewhere last year. “During peak hours, it used to take me one hour 15 minutes by car and 45 minutes by cycle to cover a distance of 18km,” said Bhatt.
Though PWD officials admitted that the tracks are in a bad condition, they attributed it to regular work carried out by utility service provides who dig up the area to lay cables. “There is no other space available on the road to lay the services. The stretch is dug up to either lay services or repair it. Another major reason for the bad condition of the tracks is that not many people use it. The stretch is encroached by vehicles. We have written to Delhi traffic police to ensure no vehicles are parked on the stretch,” said a senior PWD official requesting anonymity.