The humble man’s mode of transport has been left far behind in the fast-paced development Bangalore has witnessed in the last two decades.
The ecofriendly cycle, once a principal mode of intra-city commuting, especially with the working class, has been replaced by the fast motorised vehicles.
The sale of cycles in Bangalore, 30,000 a month in 1990, has halved now, according to figures given by a member of the cycle trade.
The failure of urban planners to lay dedicated cycle tracks, intolerance of motorists towards cyclists which often result in mishaps, and the changing socio-economic mindset have all played major roles in the drastic decline of the cyclists’ population.
According to a senior police officer, of about 700 fatalities on our city’s roads annually, 10 to 12 cases are cyclists.
Whenever projects such as underpasses, flyovers and others are conceived, planners and engineers never consider cyclists.
This makes a mockery of the National Urban Transport Policy that gives preference to cyclists, H.R. Murali of Ride A Cycle Foundation told The Hindu.
“When such is the situation, how can we expect cycling to be popular? Cities such as Amsterdam and Paris have thriving cyclists’ population,” he said.
Reduction of green cover on the roads, an important aspect in cycling and walking, and other reasons are also deterrents.
“The pleasure of cycling is lost now as it has become very difficult to ride in the city, especially with fast traffic. Even worse, the loss of tree cover on many stretches has made cycling miserable,” says M. Murali Mohan Murthy, who has enjoyed cycling for the last 25 years.
He rides daily to his office located on Infantry Road from Thyagarajanagar, a distance of about 10 km.
“Though cycling keeps me fit and I can manoeuvre easily during traffic snarls, I plan to upgrade to a motorised vehicle in future,” he says.
There are also fewer roads that have networked cycling paths, and almost none near educational institutions. Many schools have witnessed a drastic decline in the number of students on cycles.
The condescending attitude towards cyclists has also played a role in this decline, says M. Rakesh of R.R. Cycles.
He says he has seen the sales of traditional Road Master design cycles plummeting from about 400 cycles a month more than a decade ago to about 20 now.
“A large number of traditional users such as milk and paper vendors, courier boys and others have shifted to motorised transport though the sports model is still sought after,” he says.
Meanwhile, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Praveen Sood said: “We need to promote cycles by providing dedicated lanes. Though it may not be possible on existing roads, we have been asking for space in new projects as well as those roads that are being widened.”
Planners have to make a beginning.