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PMC’s cycle track back on track?


After failing to implement a pilot project for use of bicycles in the last three years, the Pune Municipal Corporation now wants to start afresh by laying a comprehensive bicycle plan.

The PMC has rubbished claims that the pilot project has been junked. In fact, civic officials say the project is at an advanced stage, but there is a need for a comprehensive action plan if the project has to succeed. One of the focus areas while preparing the plan is to consider suggestions and objections of citizens.

The municipal corporation came out with a ‘public bicycle scheme’ in 2010. As part of the plan, about 300 bicycles were to be made available at bicycle stands located near railway and bus terminals, markets, work places and educational institutions. The PMC then wanted to appoint a private agency to implement the scheme wherein citizens would first have to register with the agency. Citizens could then be able to get the bicycle from any of the 25 cycle stands for a nominal charge. The bicycle could be returned to any stand. The corporation had also planned that during the first year of promotion, there would be no charge for the first two hours of use. However, the scheme has failed to take off in the last three years with the PMC citing various reasons.

PMC’s additional city engineer (roads) Pramod Nirbhavane said that before launching the pilot project, they want to prepare a comprehensive bicycle plan, which will be valid for a period of 20 years. “The plan will be prepared by a private firm to be appointed by the PMC. It will suggest short-term and long-term measures, which will serve as a roadmap for the city for allocation or resources and implementation of projects,” said Nirbhavane.

For preparing the plan, the private firm would conduct surveys about use of bicycles and collect data to establish the current levels of use of bicycles, trends of cycling, nature of cycling trips and information about accidents. Consultations would be held with citizens about awareness and their thoughts on use of bicycles, safety and hurdles. The firm will also assess the existing facilities for use of bicycles, parking, riding conditions, street design issues and the current projects or policies that affect cycling.

Ranjit Gadgil of Parisar, an organization working for sustainable transport in the city, has welcomed PMC’s decision to prepare a bicycle plan. “The process of making the plan should be completely transparent and participative. This will ensure public backing and political acceptance. The PMC has invited suggestions on how the plan should be made,” he said.

The draft plan to be ready by April 2014

The PMC will appoint a bicycle advisory committee comprising key officials, technical experts and cycling representatives to ensure that the plan is prepared in a specified time frame. The committee will hold a meeting every month and look at the progress of the preparation of the plan by the private firm. While the PMC would appoint the private firm in September this year, the draft plan is expected to be ready by April next year. The final plan would be ready and launched in June next year.

Citing the history of use of bicycles in the city, the municipal corporation has said that Pune was once known as the “city of bicycles”, as cycling was one of the most popular modes of transport. However, as it happened in most Indian cities, the neglect of cycling as a mode of transport and a focus on motor vehicle-centric policies, has led to a rapid increase in the number of two-wheelers and cars, and a corresponding decrease in the modal share of cycling. Wider roads, heavy motorized traffic volumes, increased speeds, loss of green cover and increase in trip lengths because of the expansion of the city, as well as increased incomes have all contributed to the dramatic decrease in cycling.

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