World Bicycle Day: Time To Make Neighbourhood In Bhubaneswar Fit For Cycling

When was the last time you pedalled a bicycle to work, for leisure or physical exercise?

This is not a question that one expects in university exam papers, but this is what a city like Bhubaneswar needs to ask itself for the sake of quality of life. The neighbourhood holds the answer. Why Bhubaneswar now has more cars than bicycles?

People benefit from feeling safe and moving around their neighbourhood. Cities that support cycling and walking tend to be happy, healthy and economically stable.

It’s World Bicycle Day today, and in two days’ time, we’ll celebrate World Environment Day, but it’s never too late for people-friendly city planning reinventing neighbourhoods.

It’s disappointing when a neighbourhood street is completely rebuilt with very wide lanes for vehicles and no cycling infrastructure at all. A narrower street would slow down drivers, improve safety and create a better pedestrian environment.

As traffic on residential streets has increased, so has the number of collisions. Sadly, over the last decade, the number of walking and cycling casualties on neighbourhood streets almost doubled on main roads in Bhubaneswar. But solutions have been emerging across the globe for a better neighbourhood with walking and cycling.

The city of Toronto has created a “quiet street” inside neighbourhood, designed to expand the space for people to walk, cycle, run while maintaining local car access. Drivers are expected to go slow.

Similarly in Merwede in Utrecht, the neighbourhood of the future is being built — space for 10,000 people, 21,500 bicycles and zero cars on the street. The size of 34 football fields, it will be one of the largest inner-city, low-car districts in The Netherlands.

This is what Bhubaneswar planned 75 years ago, but today we see more cars than bicycles in neighbourhoods, why?

Slow streets give pedestrians and cyclists space to move around safely. They provide space for all road users and reduce speeding and aggressive driving behaviour. So do roadways remain accessible to all traffic and allow for the passage of two-way traffic including emergency vehicles, road maintenance vehicles and waste management vehicles?

Moreover, why Bhubaneswar needs to reinvent its neighbourhood with slow street ideas is because safety is important to get new people cycling.

Even for people who don’t ride a bicycle, safety was the biggest concern. They were afraid of other vehicles on the road and crimes.

Research findings indicate that if urban planners want to increase the percentage of people commuting by bicycle, then they should focus on protected bicycle lanes, bicycle paths, and bicycle parking near the city centre and neighbourhoods across the city.

The conditional willingness to ride a bicycle to commute gradually decreases from high-density neighbourhoods to low-density neighbourhoods. People who live in those higher-density neighbourhoods are the most likely to commute by bicycle. Removing obstacles for them might make the most sense for where city needs to invest our resources to bring people back to cycling.

One day, hopefully, the Mayor of Bhubaneswar would able to express today is a very good day.

“We wanted to create walking & cycling infrastructure that fits the needs of our citizens, while simultaneously respecting and strengthening the uniqueness of our historical city. Although it embraces the city centre, it would be wrong to call this a ‘city with highway’ since this would bring to mind the image of a busy concrete cycling trajectory where traffic speeds by. Our neighbourhood is both intuitive and attractive, as well as respectful of the unique urban fabric found in Bhubaneswar,” the Municipal Corporation asserted.

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