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Does Pune’s Aundh ‘smart cycle lane’ have a flawed design?

Will cyclists be able to use this cycle lane safely? What about encroachments by other vehicles, especially in the morning hours?

pune Updated: Sep 19, 2017 00:01 IST
Prachi Bari
Prachi Bari
Hindustan Times, Pune
Aundh,smart city,pune
As reported by Hindustan Times, preliminary estimates suggest that the cycle network project which includes construction of raised and segregated cycle tracks; marked cycle lanes, ‘shared use’ streets and ‘cycle-only greenways’ will cost the city around ₹300 crore.(HT FILE PHOTO)

The newly-renovated Smart City stretch from Bremen chowk to Parihar chowk has a number of attractive features such as broad, wheelchair-friendly footpaths, tactile elements for the visually handicapped, six metres of carriageway and a cycle lane painted in red for an easy identification and demarcation.

This cycle lane is a part of the massive city-wide, Pune Cycle Plan, which envisages creation of cycle tracks and cycle lanes in different neighbourhoods across the city. The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has prepared this plan with the support of the urban development ministry and in association with a consortium of consultants which includes Prasanna Desai Architects and Centre for Environment Education from Pune, and iTrans from Delhi.

As reported by Hindustan Times, preliminary estimates suggest that the cycle network project which includes construction of raised and segregated cycle tracks; marked cycle lanes, ‘shared use’ streets and ‘cycle-only greenways’ will cost the city around ₹300 crore.

At Aundh, the Smart City project planners have sought to provide broad footpaths, roadside parking, and a cycle lane along with a two-lane road for regular traffic. Given the fact that Aundh road witnesses heavy traffic, especially during peak hours, questions are now being raised on whether the newly-renovated road suffers from serious flaws.

The cycle lane, for example, is already being encroached upon by a number of four-wheelers, thus, defeating the very purpose of a cycle track.

It is also adjacent to the parking area which means that cyclists will face considerable obstruction as two-wheelers and four-wheelers try to park their vehicles, pull them out to drive away. The absence of barricades for the cycle lane also means poor safety for cyclists who may want to use this lane.

The following are reactions from some residents of the area, cycling enthusiasts and transportation experts:

No flaw in design: Prasanna Desai

In the pilot road, here, one cannot carve out a dedicated cycle track. If a dedicated track is needed, then the parking bay has to be sacrificed. There is a two-metre parking bay on both the sides. This is a demarcated painted cycle lane (of 1.8 metre); currently, the Pune Municipal Corporation is in the process of completing the work of painting the cycle lane. This painted lane shows the right of way for the cyclists.

The motorable road is enough for traffic movement. There is space which can be shared between the painted cycle lane and vehicles, if needed.

The cycle track has a white shaded area marked next to the parking bay and the cycle lane. Cyclists are supposed to move two feet away so that a driver who parks his vehicle can open the door. It has been worked out that the cycle track would be 1.8 metre wide and will be seen in the Pune bicycle plan as well.

There is no flaw in the design. There can always be improvements there but right now I don’t see anything that has been missed within the given situation or circumstances.

Cycle lane is not safe and needs barricades: Girish Deshpande

The only point I want to make, which Aundh Vikas Mandal (AVM) had also made during Sanskriti Menon’s (Centre for Environment Education) presentation, is that the cycle lane needs to be dedicated and also needs barricading given the dismal attitude and track record of two-and four-wheeler drivers encroaching upon these bicycle tracks.

This can be seen happening in the photo HT carried in one of its editions. We are really upset with what is happening. I support Maj Gen Jatar’s stand on the current cycle plan of Pune being haphazard.

The road width is unable to bear the current load of traffic. Secondly, with double parking due to poor policing, effectively one gets only one lane to drive their vehicles. Cars are parked on the cycle track and I have seen this happening in the morning.

Segregated cycle lane is not advisable: Sanskriti Menon

In a place like Aundh DP road, the motorised traffic movement is expected to be slow, and there are two speed tables for pedestrian crossing within the 500-m stretch. The cycle lane is painted onto the carriageway. While a segregated cycle track could be created on this road, it is not advisable since there won’t be any extra lane left to manage emergency movement or vehicle breakdowns. Only one full-width motor vehicle lane will be left.

The other option is removal of ‘on-street’ parking, which could be done after ‘off-street’ parking facilities are created and local public transport options are provided.

A large pedestrian area has been made available on DP road due to the goodwill of property owners. It was not possible to use this space for making the cycle track as this extra space is not available as a continuous stretch all along the road.

The double parking of vehicles on the carriageway, outside the demarcated spaces is a problem (whether or not a cycle lane is created). The parking of motorised vehicles on the cycle lane is an offence. It is clear that the cycle lane is currently not usable due to illegally parked vehicles.

However, it is important to recognise that in the current situation of traffic and transportation planning and infrastructure in the city, the improvements in cycling infrastructure seem to be done in isolation and in small patches.

Over time, the benefits of a larger cycle network will start becoming visible. The Aundh DP road cycle lane will connect to the cycle track on Ganeshkhind road, which is already being created as a raised, segregated track. There has to be a strong effort to provide excellent public transportation (long routes as well as through local shuttles) so that people have the option to use public transport. Attitudinal change is essential for motorists that they must not misuse the infrastructure created for pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport.

The cooperation, vigilance, patience and feedback from all road users is essential, especially for such large-scale and system-wide improvements.

Does not do justice to cyclists: Sujit Patwardhan

How does one define a good cycle track/cycle stretch? A good cycle track/stretch should be safe. This is the most important feature of a path for cyclists. On roads with heavy or fast traffic, the track should be dedicated (for cyclists only and not shared with other motorised traffic) as well as protected (by a green verge of plantation or barrier made of vertical tiles/bricks/cement blocks) and additionally grade separated, which means it should not be on the same level as the road but elevated as in case of pavements to ensure adequate protection from possible impact from motorised vehicles. This I feel must be done for roads like Satara road, Hadapsar road, Ahmednagar road, Ganeshkhind road, Sinhagad road and even perhaps Karve road.

On smaller/narrower roads, where motorised traffic does not move so fast, dedicated cycle tracks are not necessary and it may suffice to have painted cycle tracks with clear markings to show that the lane is for bicycles only. Examples of such roads will be side lanes, narrower streets with slower moving traffic or streets on which special traffic calming measures such as speed breakers have been implemented. Streets in the old core city of Peth areas are some other examples of streets where painted cycle lanes may suffice.

What should its dimensions or measurements be?

Normally bicycle tracks/lanes should be 2.5 to 3 metre wide for one-way cycle movement. For two-way movement, it will need to be 3.5 to 4.5 metre, though, ideally two-way bicycle paths should be an exception rather than a norm.

The pilot road of Aundh Smart City is not justified for cyclists. The present bicycle lane is located on the edge of the road between moving traffic and parked cars. But the reason for this is the compromise accepted by the PMC in converting this road into a two-way road. The earlier design of this road (from Bremen chowk to Parihar chowk) was a one-way street but due to opposition from the residents/shopkeepers and even perhaps the road department, it was converted into a two-way street.

A two-way street of 24 metre-width will make it very difficult to have a continuous and dedicated bicycle track unless parking is removed. My personal view is that this street should have been kept one-way with a continuous cycle track and some minimum (paid) parking. However, now that it is two-way, the only way to have a continuous and dedicated cycle track is to remove parking, which is a politically difficult decision especially when the PMC itself is not fully committed to making sustainable streets.

In all the cities which have taken the initiative to make walkable and people-friendly streets, constraints on personal auto vehicles are an essential feature of the design. PMC is still shying away from taking the bull by the horns to control personal auto vehicles and ends up compromising good design for political reasons.

First Published: Sep 18, 2017 23:47 IST