Delhi needs to be more cycle friendly

The Delhi police recently announced a drive to distribute reflector stickers free of cost to cyclists as a safety measure against accidents. While there are cycle tracks scattered through the city, most are non-functional and force cyclists to ride on main thoroughfares, increasing the possibility of accidents.

Sunita Narain, director general with the Centre for Science & Environment, was recently hit by a speeding car as she was cycling on a Sunday morning in the Capital. After undergoing a nine-hour-long operation, she said in a statement, “Cyclists in Indian cities are being edged out systematically to make way for cars - sometimes literally so”.

According to the World Health Organisation, half of those dying on the world’s roads are “vulnerable road users”: pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

Road rage can be fatal and as the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data shows, more than 4.4 lakh road accidents occurred in the country last year resulting in 139,091 fatalities.

Delhi especially comes under the ‘high risk areas’ for ‘accidental deaths’ at a rate of 46.3 per cent in 2012, which is higher than the national average of 32.6 deaths per one lakh of population as per the NCRB. About 2.5 per cent or 78 deaths in the Delhi area occurred to cyclists. Of these 61 or 11.1 per cent of deaths occurred in Delhi city alone. The number of pedestrian casualties came up to 423 or 16.1 per cent of pedestrians.

Kolkata was recently in the news for banning cyclists from its main roads while restricting them to by-lanes despite the city known to be cycle friendly.

“Cyclists and pedestrians account for more than half of all road fatalities in the country, but they draw public disdain and policy hostility,” a study by the University of Michigan and the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, has observed.

Why do Indian cities have an aversion to cyclists and who are the cyclists? While the upper middle class or environmentalists use the cycle as an alternative mode of transport, it is the main mode of transport for the lower class of people and daily wage labourers. People who deliver essentials, such as newspapers, milk and the electricians, the plumbers and the domestic workers depend on the cycle as a mode of transport to keep their jobs.

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