Before Pune was selected for the Smart Cities mission, developing cycling tracks in the city was just one of many ideas of the municipal administration.
Since Pune’s selection, it has become one of their best executed.
As our cities grow bigger, congestion on roads too is on the rise. Governments across India are looking at different ways to get people to give up their cars. While long-term public transport projects like metro rail systems are still coming up, many a city has gone in for another way of getting people to ditch their cars – cycling.
Long known as India’s cycling capital, Pune has been doing a bit to get people to pick up the habit for a while now. A decade ago, when the city was hosting the Commonwealth Youth Games, it underwent an infrastructure overhaul, that included the construction of cycle lanes in various localities, most prominently in Hadapsar and Swargate where the original line of the city’s bus rapid transit system (BRTS) ran and in other residential localities such as Kothrud.
Today, as a part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Smart Cities Mission, Pune is looking at a massive expansion of public cycling on the lines of major cities across the globe.
To gear up for the shift, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) and Pune Smart City Development Corporation (PSCDCL) are jointly preparing a plan to develop close to 700 km of cycling lanes across the city along with other infrastructure including parking spaces and more.
In November 2017, the PSCDCL decided to start out with a pilot programme of public cycle sharing in the Aundh-Baner-Balewadi (ABB) region. The corporation, along with players from the private sector – ZoomCar’s PEDL and Chinese cycle-sharing giant Ofo – set up designated parking spaces for shared cycles at Aundh and the Savitribai Phule Pune University. While ZoomCar targeted public spaces, Ofo expanded into restricted ares like Information Technology (IT) Parks and gated communities. However, earlier this year, Ofo decided to completely shut down its operations in India, but other operators such as Yulu and Mobycy have stepped in.
The Aundh Project
The 700 m stretch between Parihar Chowk and Bremen Chowk was selected for the trial run. Aundh is among Pune’s most prominent commercial zones, dotted with several high end establishments as well as those serving the average shopper.
The cycle lane itself is marked with a red coating on the surface of the road with clear markings to indicate it. Ramps have been provided at regular intervals to access buildings, while bollards have been installed on the pavements to prevent both cyclists and motorists from riding on pedestrian spaces.
In order to prevent cars from parking on the cycle lanes, designated parking spaces have been allotted that the cycle lane skirts. Near the ramps, designated spots have been provided for riders to park cycles.
The administration has smartly provided two separate parking areas – one for public or shared cycles, and one for personal ones owned by the rider. The latter is important for it encourages cycle owners to take out their cycles, knowing there is a place where they can park it.
Other features of the pilot project include a wider pavement for pedestrians, and uniform road width for motorists, raised pedestrian crossings, street furniture and overall beautification of the road, pavements and the median.
Promoting cycling as a practice
Both the civic bodies – PMC and PCMC – have actively been pushing to promote cycling as a method of transportation. In order to encourage cycle owners to take our their vehicles, cycle tracks that 2.5 m wide are being built for both directions along the four BRTS lines in Pimpri-Chinchwad where they are being branded as Rainbow Cycle (Rainbow is the brand the BRTS operates under). The PMC is also relaying pavements in areas with a high-density of non-motorised traffic such as Ferguson College Road and Jangali Maharaj Road to accommodate cycle lanes.
The PCMC is also looking at setting up cycle stations for both docked and dockless cycles within its jurisdictions. Temporary shelters were initially set up to enable residents to get acquainted with them.
Future plans for promoting cycling includes setting up parking zones in and around BRTS stations, and once the Pune Metro is operational, at metro stations as well as setting up cycle lanes under them.
Replacing the bike with cycles
The administration is working towards getting more people to opt for cycles over their motorised counterparts and for good reason too. As of 2017, Pune had over 25 lakh registered two wheelers, way more than the state capital at Mumbai. The reason for the increase in the number of bikes was due to the city’s lack of a proper public transport system, especially till the earlier part of the decade. With among the highest density of two wheelers vis-à-vis the population of the city, congestion on the roads too has been on the rise.
Since 2009, the city has had a Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) cell to develop and promote the use of cycling. However, many of the earlier plans fizzled out due to lukewarm response from both residents and private players to supply cycles. It is only after both Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad were selected for the Smart Cities Mission that the cycling plan has really taken off.
Cycling into a smarter and healthier city
With many cities across India going in for an overhaul of their civic infrastructure to finally accommodate pedestrians, promoting cycling seems to be natural progression.
Earlier this year, a Canadian study found that urban design that favoured pedestrians and cyclists helped reduce childhood obesity. The study said that neighbourhoods with wider pavements and crossing lights encouraged children to engage in more physical activity.
Further, a reduced dependency on motorised transport also helps reduce air pollution levels in the city. While the city escapes the winter pollution that plagues North India, increased congestion on roads due to more vehicles coupled with greater idling times has seen a rise in air pollution. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) had earlier cautioned about the increase in vehicles, especially two-wheelers being a reason for the increase in pollutants.
As people slowly transition to cycling, especially for shorter distances, it would keep them healthy by way of physical exercise and also with reduced emissions. Further, with the BRTS being expanded and the upcoming metro, cycling as last mile connectivity has the potential to take the Cycling Capital on par with global standards.