New Delhi, August 20, 2020:
[dropcap]A[/dropcap] recently launched campaign – #DilliDhadakneDo, is a collective effort of civil society organizations working on clean air solutions for Delhi including the need for better and sustainable public transport, in particular, cycling. Earlier this month, the initiative has started a movement to help make the capital a cycling-friendly city and petitioned the Delhi Government to bring about non-motorised transport policy in Delhi, giving priority to two aspects; a) prioritise cycling lanes and b) access to cycling as a COVID-proof mode of transport…….
‘Right to Way’ and Road-User conflict is one of the pertinent issues that modern cities are facing. Delhi, a city with nearly 11 lakh cyclists, tops the country in fatal road accidents and in a number of pedestrians and cyclists falling victim. Cities are designing roads to increase the speed of motor vehicles; neglecting the need for infrastructure and rights of walkers, cyclists and public transport users. The Citizen’s forum condemned the death of a cyclist last week in the national capital and reiterated its demand for Urban Planning Policy around Non-Motorised Transport (NMT). The cyclist was on his way to work at Siri Fort.
Terming bicycles as an important mode of transport for lacs and a potential mode of mobility for those who use crowded public transport systems in the post COVID19 era, Rajendra Ravi, Member of Sustainable Urban Mobility Network India (SUMNET), World Car-free Network and National Cyclist Union, Delhi said, “It is a matter of concern that Delhi has still not been able to wake up to the mobility crisis towards pedestrian and cyclists in Delhi. For the citizens of urban centres, cycling provides access to livelihood and becomes a means to livelihood. Protecting means of occupation of 80 percent low-income working class who cycle nearly 10 kilometres each side to earn their livelihood should definitely be a government concern.”
Committed to bring back sustainable mobility options to the cities like walking and cycling, Sarika Panda Bhatt, co-founder of Raahgiri Day said, “Riding a cycle in India is not only difficult but extremely unsafe in Delhi and absence of laws protecting vulnerable road users in India is not helping matters. According to a trend report, many people take up cycling as a hobby, but quickly discontinue the same as they feel demotivated after jostling for a secure space on the roads with buses, trucks and other vehicles. Over and above that, road accidents with the cyclists have undergone a systematic increase over the years. Therefore, we demand states to ensure that non-motorised transport road users are prioritised in street design rather than motorised road users.”
Incidentally, a survey on livelihood cyclists of Delhi released recently points out that because of the unsafe road practices and missing cycling infrastructure. While many cyclists prefer to travel in groups to fight what they call the ‘tyranny of motorists’, they demand their share of space on the roads. It is not unusual to see such groups commuting to work together so they can help each other if they run into trouble. The assessments indicate that the share of fatal road accidents have increased phenomenally as Indian cities are giving more importance to high-speed roads for vehicles – and not to ensuring safe access for all.
Mudra, a domestic worker living in Gautampuri, Badarpur, Delhi and a member of Shahari Mahila Kamgaar Union said, “Accidents if not death is very common for cyclists in Delhi as both cars and cycles jostle for the same space. I hope the Delhi government acts on the petition to build a better and sustainable public transport infrastructure. Unsafe roads are a warning against the goals of equal mobility practices across the capital. Neither the rich and powerful nor the poor can escape the fury of our killer roads.”
As traffic bounces back in the post lockdown weeks, the number of incidents including cyclists and pedestrians is also expected to increase. Delhi’s citizens including vendors, factory workers and daily labourers have joined forces along with various rickshaw and cycle unions to issue an open letter to urge Delhi government to fast track moves to create safe cycling infrastructure and permanently install dedicated cycle lanes. The move will not only build sustainable infrastructure but influence NCT to build up a pollution-free environment in the city making it a liveable space.
The only way Delhi can avert a serious mobility and pollution crisis this winter is to scale up the infrastructure for walking and cycling. We urge authorities to introduce a comprehensive road safety act addressing the safety of all road users, including vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and two-wheeler riders.