Monday Musings: Why we should not lose hope in Pune Bicycle Plan

Updated on Jun 17, 2019 03:05 PM IST

The Pune Bicycle Plan as it stands today looks as good as dead and yet, one fervently hopes that it can be revived. In fact, every effort must be made to bring the project back on track

A cycle track in the city ready for use; but, where are the cycles? It is time to ensure cycling remains part of Pune’s lifestyle.(HT FILE)
A cycle track in the city ready for use; but, where are the cycles? It is time to ensure cycling remains part of Pune’s lifestyle.(HT FILE)
Hindustan Times, Pune | ByAbhay Vaidya

Recently, the cycle sharing firm Mobike, announced the withdrawal of its business from Pune, following the footsteps of other similar firms such as Ofo and PEDL, there was that familiar feeling of the Pune bicycle plan going down the drain once again.

Although Mobike’s reasons for withdrawal from Pune are quite different, the fact is that the cycle sharing project which was part of the parent Pune Bicycle Plan, has virtually failed in this city. This failure is quite tragic considering that large amounts of public funds - close to Rs1,000 crore - have been spent on the previous cycle track attempts in the city.

Drawing lessons from those failures, the ambitious Pune Bicycle Plan was drawn up about two years ago with a commitment of Rs350 crore for the project.

Part of the cycle tracks were developed under the Smart City project, a separate department created and numerous interactive meetings held with residents. There were plans to promote cycling in the city by introducing cycles on various student campuses and in offices.

Unfortunately, very little of this happened. Even before the plan took off, it was well accepted, that people would take to cycling slowly given the absence of segregated cycle lanes and safety issues on the roads. It was, therefore, very important for the planners to promote cycling in the various educational and office campuses in the city as a starting point, to popularise and revive the cycling culture.

This was all the more necessary because the cycle tracks were not ready. Later, the city-wide cycle track plan was shelved as the Pune Municipal Corporation’s 24x7 water plan was delayed. The civic authorities said that the construction of the cycle track would be taken up only after the laying of the pipelines under the 24x7 plan was completed.

The situation now is that the Bicycle Plan is virtually dead as not only have the bicycle sharing firms withdrawn due to business failure but also, because the priorities for the civic authorities changed along the way.

As early as September, 2017, this column had extended the fullest support to the cycle plan saying that everyone associated with it - from the Ministry of Urban Affairs down to the then Pune municipal commissioner Kunal Kumar; the project consultants and executors - deserved the city’s fullest support.

The project envisaged creation of cycle tracks and cycle lanes neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood, across Pune, and a consortium of professional consultants and citizen-activists were closely associated with this project.

We had then noted that while the plan looked good on paper, “it can also be easily trashed in minutes, especially because previous cycle track projects in the city have been still-born and have wasted public funds in the crores of rupees. But, if you take a positive view, there’s a lot of good that this project can do for the city and for citizens.”

We took a positive view of the project, given that cycling is good for health and Pune has had a glorious tradition of cycling to work, and to schools and colleges.

The plan as it stands today looks as good as dead and yet one fervently hopes that it can be revived. In fact, every effort must be taken by the city’s administrators and the newly-elected member of parliament, Girish Bapat, to bring the project back on track.

As stated earlier, individuals and groups such as cycling clubs need to make their support known publicly through social media and through support rallies and cycling events.

Let us hope that the failures and setbacks suffered by the Pune Bicycle Plan is temporary and that the plan will move forward in the days and weeks to come.

abhay.vaidya@hindustantimes.com

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