Cycle tracks, parking space for bicycles, racks to lock your bike; all this may well become a reality soon in Bengaluru. Members of the cycling community are working towards developing this infrastructure in the city by working with the Bangalore Metropolitan Land Transport Authority (BMLTA) and other organisations. The BMLTA has been set up by the government of Karnataka under the Urban Development Department as an umbrella organisation to land transport matters in the Bangalore metropolitan area.
RideACycle Foundation (RAC-F), a Bengaluru-based non-profit organisation that encourages and promotes sustainable transport through cycling, had submitted a proposal to the BMLTA to construct cycling tracks in Jayanagar and Basavanagudi to create a safe route to school network. This project has been approved by the BMLTA and the cyclists are presently working on the detailed action plan.
The six kilometre cycle track will be built to form a ‘Safe Route to School’ network. A cycle track involves engineering and construction, like a pavement which is elevated, whereas a cycle lane can be marked by painting a line on the road.
Murali Ramnath of RAC-F says the proposal for the ‘Safe Route to School’ project was given because a number of educational institutions are located between Jayanagar and Basavanagudi. “It will be easy to influence students to take up cycling,” he says.
At a meeting with BMLTA officials on 7th May 2009, nine cycling enthusiasts discussed their plans with Gaurav Gupta, the erstwhile BMLTA commissioner. Gupta had got the project sanctioned through Karnataka Chief Secretary Sudhakar Rao.
Gupta reacted positively to the project and suggested that maps showing the track route can be distributed and also put up on a website. “Give out posters and pamphlets to schools, at bus stops, notice boards, on buses. Get colourful posters with the website address,” he exhorted, adding, “We will support the cost. Money is not a hindrance. We can find sponsors on the way.” He also suggested setting up facilitation centers to give cycle-related information and said, “Government is not a problem. Leave that to me. I need your support.”
At the end of the meeting, Gupta asked the cycle users group to come up with a solid action plan for the project.
Vidya Patha – Safe Route to School
The project has been named Vidya Patha – Safe route to schools. The team is doing a survey of the roads and coming up with an action plan for each road.
Here are some of the routes of the ‘Safe Route to School’ network
- Starts near National College Basavanagudi and ends near 4th Main Road. It passes near BMS Law college and Kumarans Children’s High School
- Starts near Surana College on N Srinivasarao Road and goes on to 4th main road, passing by NMKRV College and National College
- Starts near 22nd cross road in Basavanagudi and ends near 10th main road in Jayanagar
- Starts near 11th main road, Jayanagar and covers a stretch of 10th main road
- Starts near NMKRV College, passes near RV PU College and then continues on 7th main road
- Starts near Patalamma Temp street, passes through Kanakapura Road, KR Road and Nagasandra Road and on to Bugle Rock Road
Cycle user and architect Vijay Narnapatti says he has been walking around Jayanagar studying the width of the roads. With width of the roads and footpaths changing along the roads, he says a simple strategy is required to paint lines and graphics along the road. He explains that the network of roads is proposed to have marked 1.5 meter wide cycle lanes with protective PVC bollards. Bollards are rigid posts that can be arranged in a line to close a road or path to separate them from traffic. Appropriate signage to indicate it as a dedicated cycle lane will also be provided. In this phase, they are not aiming for any road engineering, specific to separate cycle lanes, except for painting, signage and some bollards.
Narnapatti adds that another set of roads will be marked as “Priority Cycle Route” (PCR) to indicate a complementary network of streets that are safe to ride, with lesser vehicular traffic. Together, the cycle lane marked roads (like 36th cross, 9th main in Jayanagar) and the PCR will form the network of the safe route to schools in phase 1.
When asked when this project will start, Gupta said it would be difficult to commit to a time frame. “The route survey has to be done and a fresh track has to be laid. We are right now at the design level,” he said.
Jayanagar MLA, Traffic and Transport Commissioner offer support
Meanwhile, Ramnath has also been meeting other officials including Jayanagar MLA B N Vijaykumar, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Praveen Sood, and Commissioner for Transport and Road Safety Bhaskar Rao.
About his meeting with Vijaykumar, Ramnath says, “He asked us to show him something concrete. So we have decided to start off by building parking stands in Lalbagh, schools and playgrounds in Jayanagar. We will get the design and other requirements ready in the next 15 days. If a large number of racks are required, we will have to call for tender and all. This won’t cost much.”
Citizen Matters spoke to Vijaykumar. He says,”A lot of senior citizens come to Lalbagh by car and bike. We will talk to the Walkers Association and ask them to come by cycle. We will provide parking stands there. Then we will go to schools and colleges,” he says.
On the ‘Safe Route to School’ project he said that once RAC-F comes up with a project design, he will physically go and observe the roads suggested by them. Vijaykumar also said that if the cost is really high he is ready to use his local area development funds. “Though I have my doubts about people taking up cycling, this cycling group is confident of changing this,” he adds, voicing some skepticism.
When Citizen Matters spoke to Praveen Sood, he said, “I very well know about this project and Mr Gaurav Gupta proposed this idea in the recent BMLTA meeting. Traffic police is in full support for such a project.” Sood suggests that cycling tracks should be built at the time of constructing new roads as it will prevent rebuilding of roads later. Things like cycling tracks need a lot of planning before implementation, he says.
When Ramnath met Sood to get some sign boards and painting of lanes, Sood felt the plan of drawing cycle lanes would not be safe. “He is open to the idea of cycle tracks. We want to take him cycling once the parking space in Lalbagh and the playgrounds are ready,” he says.
Even though the transport department is not directly involved in the project, Transport Commissioner Bhaskar Rao says he is supporting the initiatives because it is an issue of mobility. “I’ll help coordinate with the BBMP, BMLTA, traffic police and cycling community. I have allowed RAC-F to use me to have access to these people,” Rao says. He further explains that the corporation authorities will not look at this right now because they will be busy with monsoon-related work. “We have to take a concrete proposal to the BBMP”.
Who is the BMLTA Commissioner?
As these developments were being tracked, it was learnt that Gaurav Gupta, who was holding additional charge in the BMLTA as commissioner, is no longer with the committee. When asked about why he is no longer with the BMLTA, this was his response: “What can I say? We are funded by the government. I don’t think there is anything to say.” He continues to serve as the Managing Director of Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC). And about the status of these projects, now that he is no longer with the BMLTA, he said, “I’m confident that whoever takes up the work will do a good job. I am always available if any guidance or help is required.”
Citizen Matters then contacted the new BMLTA Commissioner Arvind Shrivastava, Managing Director, Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation (KUIDFC). He responded through an e-mail, stating, “Since I have just taken over, I am not entirely familiar with all the issues still. I will ask my team in DULT to give factual information. For any opinions, et cetera, I suggest that you may contact my predecessor Gaurav Gupta who has worked on all these issues.” DULT is the Directorate of Urban Land Transport, set up by the government of Karnataka under the Urban Development Department with objective to coordinate planning and implementation of Urban Transport projects and programs.
On the directions of Shrivastava, the DULT team responded through e-mail, saying, “The “Safe Route to School” project is underway. From DULT, we are awaiting a detailed plan from the cycle users group to come up with specific recommendations on the routes, schools involved and the consequent campaigns (and awareness programs) that may have to be taken up. DULT can plan to call for a meeting with the cycle users group with whom the previous commissioner was interacting. One such meeting was held after the 5th BMLTA meeting at KSRTC. The project would be taken up through BBMP as decided in the 5th meeting of the BMLTA. Mr. Gaurav Gupta, on 13th May 2009, also met up with the commissioner, BBMP requesting him to take up this project, to which there was a positive verbal response. However, they would also require the details of the route, which would have to come from the cycle users group”.
But BBMP Chief Engineer (Major Roads) T N Chikkarayappa claimed ignorance of the plan. He says, “So far there has been no communication from the BMLTA or DULT. They have to get the master plan. Then we will construct the track accordingly.” Chikkarayappa also said that they are going to have a cycle track on Seshadri Road. He also said they have identified ten corridors to make signal-free. “These roads will have cycle tracks. This will be done in a phased manner,” he says.
On 30th May, barely a week after Shrivastava entered office, we learnt that the BMLTA is going to have a new commissioner, Mohammad Mohsin who is also the Joint Secretary of the Urban Development Department. Officials in the DULT say, “Shrivastava has been briefed about the projects. In the next two-three days there will be a confirmation about the new commissioner, Mohammad Mohsin. Right now Arvind Shrivastava is still the commissioner. He was very positive about these projects. He is trying to get familiar with all this.”
Meanwhile, RAC-F says they will continue with their work. “We will have to keep pushing and convincing people. We will try at all levels,” concludes Ramnath.
Vidya Path Project is very impressive. There will be lots of direct and indirect benifits to the cyclists from this. I wish all the success for this wonderful effort by RAC-F. Very well written and interviews with officials are brilliant!