By Piyush Rout,
Bicycling is a fun way to get outdoors, have some exercise while getting in and around cities subject to if one does it safely. Well, part of doing it safely is learning some of the basic rules and lingo required for a safe ride. That’s what one gets familiar over years if one had the opportunity of riding in some of the world’s best Cycling destination such as Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Korea and Japan etc. One big yes that differentiates between most of the bicycling friendly cities & Indian cities is a lot of respect for Cyclist apart from weather, topography & infrastructure. Where as in Indian cities a cyclist is considered to be economically backward unless until one owns a swanky expensive bicycle, which means it is the sympathy that everyone shows to a bicyclist is what visible rather than respect and on top cyclist do have right over roads is next to impossible.
So over the year these sympathy syndrome becomes the reason behind many cyclists feeling guilty of being on the road trespassing by motorists on the road as they often the reason behind slowing down human powered cyclists real speed by obstructing them on the same direction as another competitor resulting in helpless because there was nothing a cyclist could do to motor powered vehicle rather than getting discouraged of being a cyclist. As a result of these psychological torture eventually, leads many cyclists becoming motorists themselves as soon as their parents give them the access and they do the same practice on the street by losing any sort of cyclist-sensibility they once had.
What its speaks is that its all about is a motorist-superiority/cyclist- inferiority complex often segregated cities and Bhubaneswar is not an exception. However, with the arrival of social networking, Bollywood movies & luxury Bicycles in the Indian market, a lot of behavioral changes are being observed and an increase in both young-adult and mature-adult cycling for transportation, fun, and adventure are now getting very popular fabrics of our city streets nowadays. But the Bhubaneswar auto & car culture dominated traffic fears that these cyclists would clog up the roads often not encouraging for Bicycling. The problem is our authorities expect cyclists to avoid busy traffic or be on the tracks that are available in fewer streets with all sorts of wrong activities. While Cyclists in Bhubaneswar did not win any political battles rather managed to prevent the worst rules being imposed by some cities where cycling is not allowed. So what cyclist expects a Protected designated bicycle lane in every street to be it free or busy streets or in simple a Shared Road Space or something a combination sustainable environment.
So that these shared space lanes would make roads safer for all users which could reduce bicycle, automobile, and pedestrian injuries. Even experience from worldwide express protected lanes also add vitality and energy to the street, attracting new businesses and helping create a community people want to live in it, not just move through. In New York, Amsterdam, Seoul, Paris, Bogota, Curitiba, Copenhagen, Shanghai, Nanjing and in many more Cities worldwide experienced local businesses witnessed increase in retail sales after the earmarking of protected bike lanes, compared to others parts of the city where bicycling was absence or are struggling with other users of the street.
In the case of Bhubaneswar in past to increase bicycling trips some facilities were created but it just could not meet aspirations of cyclists due to its poor design and sustainability. Interestingly the intervention was first of its kind in India could have been placed better but raise platformed based cycle ways over drainage network could not sustain peoples aspiration rather lost its identity of its own process. In other words, it was just like lipstick being added into women’s face without understanding whether the colour suits the ladies and their age. Which ultimately results in no use is the status of bicycling infrastructure in our city.
However, bringing a change in attitudes and putting supportive social environments towards cycling would able to make a big difference keeping in mind that Bhubaneswar still enjoys a good number of cyclist on the street but it needs to improve the physical environment for cycling on the street as well as facilities in work & public space, a bit of socially acceptable advocacy and bring out the champions among private & public sector leaders such as senior officials commuting in bicycles and on top a visible actions for reducing city temperature. Otherwise, the present intervention that is buzzing around to put in place some borrowed colour coded cycling ways might become a desert with fading away of colours while it is taken over by bulls, cows & dogs etc.
Even though cycling is rising as more prominent in Bhubaneswar with many youngsters choosing to Bicycling be it Lycra cyclists or for social environments identity but the truth is now rich also need their swanky bicycle find its space on the street which often a story of struggle for the poor cyclist as cost of Bicycle is no cheaper as it use to be in past so did managing it. Although most of the aspiring India’s smart city including Bhubaneswar has shown its commitment towards cycling infrastructure it still has to do a lot beyond these fancy intervention of colour coded streets like lipstick intervention than putting in place a robust lip guard mechanism such as city wide infrastructure along with social interventions.
Hopefully the intention of cities would be to put in place more supportive cycling infrastructure level actions for cooling down of city temperature and an infrastructure not just in streets but across the city work & public space including a mindset that Cyclist are neither poor nor an orphan on the street rather they are part of the big global action on sustainability. Perhaps the day when parents will have no fear of sending their children to school on a bicycle, similarly city’s top bureaucrats irrespective of political or administrative using bicycle as mobility options, while family riding bicycle together for social gathering and Bhubaneswar gets its Spring festival back on the streets then certainly city’s lip guard would ensure lipstick shine in our city streets in tune with sustainable mobility.