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Connecting the Bicycle dots - 'Build it and they will come'

Found an interesting article in Washington Post foreign service section about how some countries have adapted to Bicycles and how some others are on the path. It also holds out that research suggests that India and China cannot afford to not adopt the model.

Some Interesting excerpts,

"In greater Tokyo, where 35 million people live in the world's most populous metro area, there are almost no bike lanes. Still, a bicycle is an essential component of life in Tokyo. Impossibly thin women in four-inch heels ride them, as do important-looking men in black suits. Cycling's chaotic ubiquity is a result of several factors: population density, the high cost of driving and arguably the world's best train and subway system"

"Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands have been connecting the dots for three decades. They started in the mid-1970s, in the wake of the world's first oil shock and after 25 years of American-style, car-centric traffic management that had coincided with a sharp decline in cycling. There is now an integrated system of safe bicycling routes in most cities in all three countries. It allows cyclists to go almost everywhere on paths that are separated from automobiles and in "traffic-calmed" neighborhoods. Besides pampering cyclists, these countries punished drivers with fees and restrictions intended to make commuting by car expensive, slow and frustrating."

In China and India, where middle-class aspirations have trumped concern about gas prices and climate change, cars continue to chase bicycles off the streets. Two decades ago in New Delhi, bicycles held a 60 percent share of traffic flow; now that figure is about 4 percent. "People want cars, as it indicates development, progress and that you are more influential," said Nalin Sinha, program director in New Delhi for a nonprofit transportation group. Sinha said that when he began riding a bicycle his friends thought that something had "gone wrong financially."

More ...

Build It and They'll Come

"While the northern European model for promoting cycling certainly works, it is costly and requires lots of government intervention. There are other ways to get people on bikes. Japan does not pamper cyclists, but it does provide easy access to mass transit."
"The build-it-and-they-will-come approach has also worked in Bogota, Colombia, where Dutch bicycle engineers were recently imported to build bike lanes and redesign traffic flows. In two years, bike use jumped tenfold, from 0.5 percent of all trips to 5 percent."


Bengloorappa's picture

Build it and they will come

The main thing that I wanted to bring to your attention is the highlighted line in the last para of the above article. - "There are other ways to get people on bikes. Japan does not pamper cyclists, but it does provide easy access to mass transit" 

Are there any efforts being made by Namma Metro to incorporate this ? - Agreed that our Metro stations are not very close apart, but if we provide bicycle parking lots as a first step, people will be encouraged to try out park-and-ride schemes.

Phase I of Namma Metro touches a lot of residential areas and those staying within a 1.5km radius can travel by cycles.
If Metro projects cycling in the right light and encourages it, a lot of people may consider it.

The Metro does not have any obligations to do it, but may earn some carbon credits by indirectly reducing pollution vis-a-vis the same Metro rider travelling home by a car or motrocycle. Autorickshaw drivers ask 10Rs extra for less than 2 kms short trip and a motorcycle just adds up to pollution and chaos, so, if Namma Metro provides free cycle parking, it is a win-win for everyone

Vasanth's picture

This is the way Curitiba and Bogota has done it

Transmileno, the world's best BRT has done this way. They offer free parking with locking system of the cycles spokes with the stand that nobody takes away. Also, Government offers cycles to travel from one place and leave it in another Government cycle parking.

Above all this, Transmileno service.

silkboard's picture

supply-demand vs build-it-first

Incidentally, Commissioner of Police Mr Shankar Bidari, when speaking at an event last week, was given a suggestion that cycle tracks be developed in the central area of city as that should help reduce some cars. The well to do gentleman who asked the question added that he is game to cycle himself.

Forget the merits or demerits of the suggestion for a moment. Mr Bidari replied that number of people using the cycle has gone down over the years, so the investment in building cycle tracks is perhaps not justified. He did use the word demand, there isn't enough demand.

Fair enough. But two things struck me when he made this (most likely off-the-recird) comment.

  1. Isn't this the wrong way of using stats as justification. cycle usage has gone down because of lack of investment in cycling facilities. Cycles are a realistic possibility for short commuts or errands. Besides, poorer folks would be interested in cycling.
  2. For things you beleive in, you have to invest upfront to generate demand. One can say there isn't enough demand for public transport, stats would back that a - usage of private vehicles has gone up.

Governance and urban planning, at times, needs to be like a business - you need to invest upfront. Looking at pure demand-supply equation is not the best way of htinking - that argument leads to more and more congestion and shortage of resources. The key is in generating demand via upfront investment.

Another good axample of upfront investment would be satellite towns, investments in tier-ii cities.

Remember BMLTA's flyers on cycle tracks around the city. Lets see how that project goes. That sounds like a build-it-first project.

Bengloorappa's picture

BMRCL should choose to set an example

Bang on target SB, but in the same breath - when we have limited resources, we should use it prudently and investing huge amounts on cycle tracks may not be entirely justified right away. If we take, say 10-20%, of the car-borne population off the roads, then it may be a good point to start such efforts.

My point of making this post was to impress the fact that BMRCL "will" be successful is reducing atleast 15% of the current intra-city traffic and that it should also look at a larger cause of further keeping its users off their cars beyond its boundaries by helping commute schemes such as car pooling, free bicycle parking and easy access to public transport.
I will try to contact BMRCL and post results here.

murali772's picture

what's the vision for the city?

Exactly, SB. Firstly, the city has to state its vision as to which kind of a model it wants to pursue - the car-centric US (LA) type or public transport - centric European (Amsterdam, Paris, London) type. Many things will fall in place thereafter.

As important as meeting the BMLTA chief, we need to pose these questions to Mr Ashok, and the other city ministers/ MLAs.

Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao
nijavaada's picture

tailor-made vision?

Rightly said Mr. Murali. I think a decision to pursue a particular route for a particular city must be made based entirely on the circumstances that are prevalent in the city, and also based on what is unique to the city. This has been taught to us in early schooling as well - for instance - the style of building houses in central (land locked) cities of India cannot (and need not) be employed in building houses in coastal regions because of unique circumstances of coastal towns making flat terraces a no-no.

Likewise, any infrastructural decision that Bengaluru takes must reflect what Bengaluru needs, what Bengaluru is, and what it is part of. But it may not make any sense if we want to *ask* Ashok and his ilk about how they envision Bengaluru to be! On simple grounds of ineptitude. But we may ask them anyways, for formalities sake!

On the flip side, from Praja's perspective, I feel when we approach them, we must go to them ready with a vision, and a matching proposal to make Bengaluru achieve that vision. To this effect, we @ Praja need to feel the correct vein of Bengaluru and envision what is best for its future, and what route it needs to be guided upon to reach there. The transportation WG might perhaps have a significant role to play in this direction.


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