Non-motorised transport cell does little to promote cycling

The Comprehensive Mobility Plan for the city has set the ambitious target of ensuring use of non-motorised transport (NMT) — cycling and walking — in 50 per cent of all trips by 2030. It seems this target will remain only on paper as the NMT cell of the Pune Municipal Corporation is completely passive and not ready to take the responsibility for cycling infrastructure in the city.

Obstacle course: A cycle track in the city tells a sorry tale of neglect. Critics says cycle tracks in the city are improperly designed and there are hundreds of fixed obstacles along the 88-km network of tracks. Pic/Ishan Ghosh

The specialised NMT cell was established in 2008 to promote cycling, know the problems of cyclists and design various projects. Ten engineers were appointed in the NMT cell. A PMC notification states that the NMT cell should take total responsibility for cycling and walking infrastructure and take action to improve the non-motorised environment in the city. The cell should also engage citizens and experts to address the problem of cyclists and pedestrians.

So far the cell has conducted three meetings and only shown its inefficiency regarding any NMT policy. “We have communicated all the problems of cyclists but the NMT cell is not at all working and has not taken any decision regarding improvements of tracks,” Parisar programme director Rangit Gadgil, who attended all the meetings, said.

“Recently, with all the engineers of NMT cell we had organised a small cycle ride on the cycle tracks. In that ride, members of the NMT were not able to ride more than five minutes because of poor conditions. They assured removal of the obstacles, but no action has taken place. Even previous meetings were organised after continuous follow-up of NGOs.”

The Centre has recognised the need to promote cycling as an eco-friendly and fuel-saving mode of transport in cities and it is part of the National Action Plan on Climate Change under the Sustainable Habitats Mission.

The National Urban Transport Policy has also strongly emphasised the need to promote NMT and funding under JNNURM is linked to this. “During the establishment of NMT cell, JNNURM officials had visited in the city and strongly recommended improvement in NMT infrastructure,” Gadgil said. “They ordered that a one-kilometre ideal cycle track should be developed so that it can, but it is still pending.”

NMT cell head Namdev Barapatre said, “We don’t have authority and manpower to remove the obstacles directly. Most of the obstacles on the track are by PMC’s different departments and the Maharashtra State Electricity Development Corporation Limited. We have sent notices to the departments to remove the obstacles. Through the cell, we can only coordinate the problems of cycle tracks but cannot take a decision regarding infrastructure and development.”  

Jnnurm and cycling tracks
All the cycle tracks in the city have been laid because the policy of the Centre is that JNNURM will not sanction funds for any project if the city does not develop cycle tracks. For BRT corridor, it was compulsory to develop cycle tracks along with the BRT route. In the existing 88 km network of cycle tracks in the city, almost 80 per cent tracks have been laid under the JNNURM scheme and, except the cycle track on Canal road, the PMC has not made any effort to improve NMT infrastructure. 

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