Many of these stretches are not used at all while others have been encroached upon. What is worse is that no one is complaining.
As Ahmedabad gears up to hold its first-ever Cyclothon on Sunday, cycling enthusiasts seem to be unaware of many of the tracks that were built exclusively for them three years back.
When the routes of the Bus Rapid Transport System (BRTS) in the city were being built, a 2-metre track was laid along most routes exclusively for cyclists. These tracks had cost the Ahmedabad municipal corporation (AMC) Rs 2 crore per kilometre.
Unfortunately, even before these tracks could be used by cycling enthusiasts, they were being used to park two-wheelers and pushcarts, and even as side-lanes to drive against the flow of the traffic.
Now that Ahmedabad is set to host its first Cyclothon, one wonders whether cycling enthusiasts will ever get to use what was actually built for them. On many of these encroached stretches, there are no cyclists at all. What is even more worrying is that no one is complaining, neither the health conscious nor the environment conscious people nor the poor who cycle to save money.
In fact, a study conducted by CEPT professors on low carbon mobility in India and the challenges of social inclusion, had found that out of the total 78 km of BRTS route in Ahmedabad, only 26.2% had exclusive cycle tracks. And only 65% of the tracks are usable and free of encroachment. Close to 35% of the cycle tracks are either encroached or in bad shape.
The factors discouraging people from using the cycle tracks include non-continuous tracks, their narrow width, encroachments, and fear of accidents cause by two-wheelers using the tracks to drive against the flow of the traffic.
Associate director at CEPT, Prof Shivanand Swamy, who led the institute team in designing the project, feels that the encroachments on cycle tracks discourage people from using them. What else could be the reason for people not using these tracks? “We have not analysed the reasons. Despite what is believed, cycle tracks cannot be continuous nor can they be wider than 2 metres. Even today, there are many areas where the tracks are not used at all. More often than not, they are used by commuters using scooters and other two-wheel vehicles seeking space to drive against the flow of traffic. To improve the situation, efforts must also be made to improve the overall traffic sense of the people,” he said.
Experts in the city believe that the crossroads near Shivranjani is the best example of the traffic chaos that overwhelms cycle tracks along the BRTS routes. Dr Pravin Kanabar, member of the Ahmedabad Traffic Consultation Committee, said that the track here is used to park vehicles by people attending weddings on nearby party-plots.
“Cyclists do not get safe space –neither on the road, nor on cycle tracks in Ahmedabad. There are three things we need – enroll, educate and enforce. When we implement these three and make people observe traffic norms, people will learn to respect fellow commuters even if his is using just a bicycle,” he said.