Monday Musings: Give Pune Bicycle Plan your best shot
The right to safe cycling in Pune has to be asserted over and over again.pune Updated: Dec 04, 2017 15:04 IST
For once, almost everyone is in agreement that a sincere effort must be made to revive cycling in Pune.
The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), in consultation with citizen groups, has drawn up the Comprehensive Bicycle Plan for the city which is estimated to cost Rs.350 crore. This plan has long distance segregated bicycle tracks and short distance cycle lanes. Starting with the Smart City project at Aundh, it will cover neighbourbood by neighbourhood, enabling people to cycle short distances or long distances, as they may please.
Municipal commissioner Kunal Kumar and a number of citizen groups are keen that this plan becomes a reality. The project has already secured the crucial approval of the civic body’s Standing Committee. It was placed before the general body last week for the final approval of the house, but that got postponed by about a fortnight because corporators said they wanted a detailed presentation. By all accounts, the plan will most likely go through and the bicycle plan will see a roll-out in fuller measure.
Now we come to the challenges. First and foremost is the issue of safety which needs to be made integral to the bicycle plan.
Pune was once famed as the bicycle capital of India; but the citizens gave up cycling because of the onslaught of two-wheelers, making Pune the two-wheeler capital of India. Another big reason to abandon cycling was the absence of safety on the roads. If the city is going to create cycle tracks in almost every neighbourhood and on major arterial roads, then safety has to be paramount.
The right to safe cycling in Pune has to be asserted over and over again and this requires an aggressive public campaign. The comprehensive bicycle plan must make a budgetary provision to promote cycling on the one hand and reinforce the message of safe cycling on the other.
Preferably once a week, citizen groups and cycling clubs which are keen to promote cycling in the city must organise cycling rallies in different parts of Pune to assert that it is possible to revive safe cycling in our city. The participation of celebrities in such rallies would be an added attraction for the citizens.
After safety comes the challenge of sound implementation. We have seen many good-intentioned and well-funded civic projects have run aground primarily due to poor implementation- be it the BRTS (Bus Rapid Transit System), subways, solid waste management infrastructure, or the cycle tracks of the past themselves.
The cycle tracks that were constructed in the past failed because they were created in patches and were not well planned. They were encroached upon by other vehicles. The BRTS failed because of slow and poor implementation, even though Pune had the advantage of the first pilot BRTS. Subways were constructed in parts of the city, but after that, remained in a state of neglect. What was lacking was proper maintenance.
The citizens cannot allow the same to happen with the cycle tracks once again. It is public money of a large order that is being spent on this project and it is in the citizens’ interest that it is protected and maintained at all times. The project cannot be allowed to go waste.
Cycling is a healthy activity for each and every citizen and needs to be embraced by one and all in this age of sedentary lifestyles and chronic and widespread lifestyle diseases such as diabetes. If more people take to cycling, it is good for them, their families and for the Indian society at large. There is a lot to gain from going back to the humble bicycle once again. A grand opportunity has arrived for Pune and now is the time to seize the moment.