Cycle tracks make way for cars in Gurugram
Two years since a cycling track was first proposed on the 7-km-long stretch track between Dundahera Chowk and Mahavir Chowk, its completion hangs fire. With only 20% work remaining and all roadblocks in its completion removed, the pace of work gives rise to concerns that this project too could meet the same fate as that of tracks made earlier even as lives of cyclists continue to be at risk.
On Saturday, a cyclist was killed in a hit-and-run case on the Subhash Chowk flyover. This was the third such death reported this year.
While the 2018 data on deaths of cyclists and pedestrians on city roads was unavailable, the traffic police data from 2015-2017 shows the number of fatalities for this vulnerable section of road users has remained almost steady.
In 2017, seven cyclists died in Gurugram. Correspondingly, four died in 2016, preceded by nine in 2015.
As the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) and the Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) contemplate on who is going to finish the ₹43-crore project, other cycling tracks built over the years lie in a state of disrepair, encroached and forgotten.
In October 2017, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) built “open” cycle tracks on service lanes from Signature Towers to Rajiv Chowk to IFFCO Chowk without any fencing or physical demarcation. Officials simply painted a white line, along with few cycle symbols, on the road to demarcate the space meant for cyclists on the carriageway that sees heavy movement of motorized vehicles at high speeds.
Created on either sides of the highway, the lengths of these tracks are 4.1km at Signature Towers, 4.2km at Rajiv Chowk, and 5.9km at Iffco Chowk. At all the three stretches, it is common to find stationary vehicles, tyre-repairing shops and vendors occupying the space meant for cycle tracks.
Despite stretching for more than 14 km, regular cyclists told HT they did not know that there was a space “reserved” for their use at any of the three junctions.
“I cycle from Jharsa Village to Cyber City every day for work. I had no idea that the white line was meant to demarcate a cycle track as all motorised and non-motorised vehicles use the entire width of the carriageway. If only had the authorities placed concrete barriers of some kind to separate the track for cyclists otherwise, nobody follows the lane system,” Jharsa village resident Rinku Yadav said.
Project director of the National Highways Authority of India Ashok Sharma could not be reached for comment.
In February 2016, the MCG had built cycle tracks along Bhagwan Mahaveer Marg and St Thomas Marg as part of the Green Raahgiri initiative.
Unlike the service lanes of Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, the MCG had placed concrete bollards on the 1.2km-stretch from Ramada Hotel to Kanhai village and on the 1.5km-stretch from near Genpact Chowk to Paras Hospital, to shield cyclists. However, within a month of being placed, the bollards were broken, removed at several points and the spaces were “reserved” for illegal autorickshaw stands or occupied by slum dwellers. Three years later, even the broken bollards have been uprooted. Only a handful remain as an indication of the cycle track that once existed.
“As per the standard guidelines of road construction, a carriageway needs to have at least 5-metre road-width reserved for cyclists and pedestrians. Roads and crossings in Gurugram have not factored this basic rule as a result of which cyclists’ lives are in constant danger. Last year, 21 cyclists died in accidents in the city. Authorities need to construct cycle tracks that are at an elevation from the main carriageway along with concrete or metallic barriers to safeguard cyclists,” Sarika Panda Bhatt, programme coordinator with Haryana Vision Zero, said.
MCG commissioner Yashpal Yadav accepted that roads in Gurugram have been built keeping motorists in mind.
“To ensure that pedestrians and cyclists get requisite road width for mobility, the MCG has initiated a survey to ascertain the on-road space for pedestrians, non-motorised transport, and other vehicles on each arterial road. Based on this, the MCG will undertake engineering changes on arterial stretches to give a larger share of road space to pedestrians and cyclists,” he said.
The 7-km-long cycle track between Dundahera Chowk and Mahavir Chowk was first proposed by the MCG in 2017 as part of the widening of the Old-Delhi Gurgaon Road. More than 80% of the track has been constructed, with the last 20% remaining stuck for the past year.
GMDA chief executive officer V Umashankar, who was earlier the MCG chief, said widening a portion of the road required occupying the forest land, which needed clearance, and thus the project was delayed.
He said that after a payment of Rs13 crore was made to the forest department, the land has now been transferred for the project. However, the contractor is yet to resume work.
“The project is with the MCG. However, since all master roads were transferred to the GMDA last year, we have a say in the matter. We have asked the MCG to either finish the project or end the contract with their concessionaire and hand over the remaining project to us. A decision on this is expected soon, and after the verdict, construction of the cycle track will be completed,” Umashankar said.