Cycling in Bengaluru: What’s the Way Forward?

Cycling in Bengaluru: What's the Way Forward?

Cycling in Bengaluru: What's the Way Forward?

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Communities in Bengaluru occasionally celebrate Cycle Day to encourage recreational cycling, but has this movement sparked any real change in attitudes towards cyclists?

Last Sunday morning, about 200 Malleshwaram residents took their cycles to 13th Cross Road to celebrate Cycle Day. Children played, mothers drew rangolis, and cyclists took rounds in the area. Initiated in 2013, Cycle Day was designed as an awareness campaign to promote cycling for short trips within neighborhoods. The Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) has partnered with communities to organize 570 Cycle Days across 68 neighborhoods since its inception.

DULT has built the capacity of about 70 Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) in these neighborhoods, developing local solutions to promote non-motorized transport. Successful initiatives include the Walk and Cycle to School programs, Neighbourhood Improvement Plans in Sanjaynagar and HSR Layout, and bicycle infrastructure in 18 government schools. According to DULT, Cycle Days have led to more children using bicycles for short trips and encouraging their parents to switch to non-motorized transport for errands. Some communities have reported greater respect and awareness from other road users towards cyclists.

The Comprehensive Mobility Plan (CMP) for Bengaluru, 2020, envisions 600 km of cycle track infrastructure by 2035. DULT has already planned to retrofit about 350 km of cycle track network on existing roads in Bengaluru, with detailed designs recently shared with BBMP. Additionally, DULT has provided cycle stands at selected metro stations and plans to expand this infrastructure in collaboration with BMRCL. Cycle stands have also been installed in 18 government schools to facilitate cycling to school.

Despite these efforts, the ground reality presents mixed feelings. Sathya Sankaran, a mobility activist, notes that the city has only 6 km of cycle lanes out of the 600 km planned for 2035, raising questions about the progress of DULT’s plans. Ramesh Sreekantan, a Malleshwaram resident who has been cycling 15-20 km to work since 2016, observes that the number of ordinary cyclists has decreased since the pandemic. He believes people now cycle more for exercise or pleasure rather than necessity.

Krishna Panyam, another Malleshwaram resident and cyclist, appreciates the community connection fostered by Cycle Days but feels it has not led to significant changes in cycling habits. He cites the reluctance to cycle on main roads, even during Cycle Day events, as a mindset issue preventing cycling from becoming mainstream. He also highlights the lack of respect for cyclists and the problem of cycle lanes being laid on pedestrian paths, making it uncomfortable for both pedestrians and cyclists.

The reality is that many roads in Bengaluru are not wide enough for dedicated cycle lanes without exacerbating parking problems for other vehicles. Panyam suggests that promoting awareness and respect for cyclists among children is crucial for behavioral change. Additionally, he emphasizes the importance of fixing potholes and footpaths, and designing cycle stands at metro stations and other areas to promote cycling. “Painted cycle lanes do not mean much compared to these measures,” he concludes.

As Bengaluru strives to integrate cycling into its urban landscape, addressing these challenges and fostering a cultural shift towards cycling are essential for making it a viable mode of transport.