PEDAL PUSHING – In dire times, a fresh vision to cycling

Civic Body Comes Up With Pune Cycle Plan, Enthusiasts Cheer Back-To-Future Outlook
The chaos of motorized traffic on perilous roads in the city makes a strong case for cycling. For one, distances are not great and for another the benefits in terms of health, transport and emissions run deep.Advocates of bicycling in the city said it is the right time to push ahead with Pune Cycle Plan, since the roads are completely overrun by vehicles. When commute becomes difficult, pedalling to destinations is the best option.

Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), which announced the plan recently , has sought public inputs about cycle tracks, lanes, unsafe places and ways to promote cycling. Pedal pushers are upbeat.

“Pune was a cycle city once. Cycling as a mode should not be looked at as outdated as it is a good door-to-door transport and provides ample exercise. Connectivity in the city through petrol-diesel based vehicles increases pollution and stress on roads and parking spaces,“ Sujit Patwardhan, founder of Parisar, said. Parisar is a civil society organization working on lobbying and advocacy for sustainable development.

“As of now, I don’t see great possibility of public transport improving dramatically in Pune and other modes leading to deeper holes in the pocket and a burden on the environment. As the world stares at the increasing problem of global warming, cycling is the only mode which is now being looked at as sustainable for a better future,“ he added.

For those skeptical about people’s interest in cycling, the numbers speak volumes.

At Lifescycle, cycling athlete and partner, Nachiket Joshi traces the demand for quality cycles and knowledge for maintenance.

“When we started in 2010, the annual sale of cycles was around 4,500 per year. Within six years, it has already grown to 16,000-18,000 per year. Among these are cycles worth between Rs 4 to Rs 10 lakh,“ he said.

Nachiket is the son of well-known cyclist duo Ulhas and Gayatri Joshi, who even at 55, embark on Pune-Leh cycling events to spread awareness.

“Four-wheelers and twowheelers demand regular investments, but cycles are an investment in fitness. We have Bus Rapid Transit System corridors and it seems the only way to ease traffic. People are travelling more, have more exposure and even middleclass citizens get back the benefits of cycling from developed countries from their trips abroad. People were not aware earlier and now that they are, we need more cycle tracks and connected infrastructure to tap into the interest. This is the correct time to take the cycle plan for the city to another level,“ he said.

Ranjit Gadgil of Parisar added that Pune’s existing infrastructure is much better than many other cities which have no sign of physical cycle tracks in existence.

“There have been certain efforts. The civic body is distributing cycles to school children and making a few tracks. There have been repe ated, but unsuccessful efforts within the civic body such as formation of a non-motorized transport cell. The time is right to put everything together and to ensure the entire city becomes cycleable, a proper cycle plan needs to be made,“ Gadgil added. Aniket Mahashabde, fo under of Cymour Cycle Rentals, said with the rise in fitness groups in the last 10 years, cycling has become more appealing.

“Though cycling is yet not as organized an activity as running, various interest groups have been formed. We get at least five cycling event requests every week and almost four to five only on weekends from corporates, and private groups who look forward to organizing group events. As many as 200 new people ride with us every week,“ Mahashabde said.

For most people, a 10-km cycling radius is doable on a regular basis and in many parts of the city , such an adventure is still possible, he said. “Pune has a fine network of roads. With a little additional nudge about the attitude of other riders on the road and better signages, cyclists would easily find their way through traffic and reach their destinations faster,“ Mahashabde added. Pune has been a `cycle ci ty’. In fact, looking at the big percentage of cyclists and non-motorized vehicle users, the administration had, at the time done extensive surveys and created an official project plan to retain the city’s charm for cyclists.

Through recommendations, cycle-exclusive links such as Sambhaji bridge and Wakdewadi underpass were proposed with additional suggestions for well-defined footpaths and cycle paths.

The 1981 cycle project plan cites “an independent cycle network“ as one of the most “important long-term proposals based on the studies regarding traffic and transportation for the city.“

For gynaecologist and obstetrician Shirish Patwardhan, cycling is the main mode of transport since 20 years. “A visit to Sinhagad on Sunday mornings finds large groups of people cycling to the fort and back. Leisure cycling has grown manifold with people of all ages wanting to cycle. This itself shows that if there is a safe, adequate cycling network in the city , a large number of people would like to commute within the city by this mode too,“ he added.

Cycling, while tackling rising congestion and pollution, will not burden the city in its forward march. In fact, in slow-moving traffic, chances of accidents are few, he said. “While we are aiming for a smart city , Swachh Pune Sundar Pune and other programmes, we should also aim for a cycle-friendly Pune,“ he added.

Source : TOI