Environment-friendly cycle: In India, a country of over a billion people, cycling, apart from health reasons has primarily been a phenomenon of only certain low-income groups or small towns and villages of India. What is the reason that despite growing concerns of high air pollution levels causing nearly 75 percent of around 9 million deaths in the country and ever-increasing congestion on the roads cycling is still not considered a choice for day-to-day life and commuting in India?
Rising number of deaths caused by road accidents
Approximately one lakh motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists died in the year 2021, due to car accidents on Indian roads which are getting congested more each passing day. Additional 1400 new cars are added daily to the fleet of capital alone pushing a dire need for city dwellers to switch to public transport and cycling but cycling remains restricted for gyming and health reasons and fails to attract commuters for day-to-day use.
Why, in spite of the 11 percent increase in the number of vehicles since 1950 on Indian roads, which have merely expanded 4 percent in the same period, the culture of cycling is not kicking up?
Nonstarter environment-friendly government projects
Unfortunately, every government project to promote cycling ends up being a nonstarter. In January 2020, India’s Home Minister, Amit Shah laid the foundation stone of a 36-km-long, ambitious project, Delhi Cycle Walk, with the hope that cycling would become a new fashion trend. At the ceremony, the Home Minister stated he was hopeful that once the cycle track facility was made available, pollution in the national capital would be reduced by 20 percent. After more than 3 years, the project is yet to take shape and there is no available update about it.
It is not just about any particular project or government’s intention to promote cycling. It is about various other factors that exist in the country, that are not favorable for cycling to become mainstream. Even in cities like Noida and Chandigarh, which have dedicated cycling lanes, people do not prefer using it as a mode of transport to commute to and from their work or office. In European countries, cycling is a normal part of everyday life and many people prefer it over any other mode of transport. Then what is stopping India to switch to cycle, save on fuel and ease out the traffic problem?
Reasons why cycling has no-takers in India
One of the main reasons why India is not a cycling-friendly country is the lack of proper cycling infrastructure. Many Indian cities lack dedicated bike lanes, and the existing ones are often blocked by parked cars, motorbikes, or street vendors. Cyclists have to share the road with other vehicles, and the high volume of traffic makes it difficult and dangerous for them to navigate through the streets.
Another issue is the lack of safety measures for cyclists. Road accidents are a major concern in India, and cyclists are particularly vulnerable. Many Indian drivers are not aware of the presence of cyclists on the road, and this often leads to accidents. Additionally, cyclists are often not given priority at intersections or roundabouts, leading to accidents or near misses.
Non-environment-friendly modes, a social symbol
Cycling in India is also often perceived as a lower-class activity, which further discourages people from taking up cycling. In a society where cars and motorbikes are seen as symbols of social status, cycling is often looked down upon as a mode of transportation for the poor. This has led to a lack of investment in cycling infrastructure and a lack of awareness about the benefits of cycling.
Moreover, the climate in India is another challenge for cyclists. Summers in many parts of India can be extremely hot and humid, making it difficult to cycle for long distances. In addition, air pollution in many Indian cities is a major concern, and cycling in polluted environments can have a negative impact on one’s health.
Lack of support for the environment-friendly means
Another factor contributing to the lack of cycling in India is the lack of government support. While some state governments have launched cycling initiatives, there is still a lack of national-level policies to promote cycling as a sustainable mode of transportation. The government needs to invest in dedicated cycling infrastructure, provide incentives for cycling, and raise awareness about the benefits of cycling for both individuals and the environment.
Lack of awareness
Finally, the lack of awareness about the environmental benefits of cycling is also a significant issue. Cycling is a clean and sustainable mode of transportation that can reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality. However, many Indians are not aware of these benefits and continue to rely on cars and motorbikes as their primary mode of transportation.
Way forward to living environment-friendly life
India has a long way to go before it can be considered a cycling-friendly country. Improving infrastructure, providing safety measures, raising awareness about the benefits of cycling, and government support are essential steps toward making cycling a safe, sustainable, and accessible mode of transportation.
Encouraging people to take up cycling not only promotes a healthy lifestyle but can also have a significant positive impact on the environment. Especially the metros are not considered an option and need an immediate considered affordable and sustainable means of transportation. However, despite its potential, India is not a cycling-friendly country. From poor infrastructure to a lack of safety measures, several factors contribute to the current state of cycling in India.