Bangalore, like other Indian cities, has increasingly shown a trend towards motorised transport and an accompanying neglect of non-motorised transport such as bicycles and pedestrians. As in other cities, more road space is being taken up by the large number of motorised vehicles, and non-motorised transport is getting correspondingly lesser space and facilities. Also, there is no provision for non-motorised transport in both the Master Plan for Bangalore or in the budgets allotted for the city’s infrastructure. This is in spite of the fact that in a city like Bangalore, a high percentage of trips less than 4km long are done by cycling or walking. In fact even motorised trips have non-motorised components such as walking and cycling which act as feeder elements for commuters in helping them reach their destinations.
It is against this background that the Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) of Government of Karnataka, in association with PRAJA, a Bangalore-based non-profit citizen initiative, has drawn up a plan to set up a Non Motorised Transport (NMT) Network in the city. Praja, which takes up issues across a wide spectrum, assists local citizens in coming up with collective solutions to problems and presenting them to the government. Giving the background of the NMT project Sathya Sankaran, a founding member of Praja says, “Since 2007, Bangalore citizens and the experts of Praja have been dissecting the transportation mess in our cities, especially Bangalore. Thus, Praja RAAG (Research, Analysis & Advocacy Group of Praja) came up with the justification, alignment and benefits of doing a pilot study of an NMT project. This report was also vetted by the Centre for Infrastructure, Sustainable Transport & Urban Planning (CiSTUP). DULT expressed keen interest in the proposal and constituted a task force on NMT of which Praja was a part. DULT and the Transport Department, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) then jointly conducted field trips to finalise the feasibility of the alignment. Transport Training Institute and Consultancy (TTIC) were appointed as consultants for the project and they prepared a detailed project report.”
The area of the city identified for the NMT Network is the Central Business District (CBD) of Bangalore. The CBD area is a very dense and severely congested area with the congestion likely to worsen because of the new facilities such as Museum and Open Air Theatre being planned along the Bangalore Metro Corridor which passes through this area. The NMT Network will be 8km long and will cover important roads such as MG Road, Residency Road, St. Mark’s Road, Richmond Road, Brigade Road, and Kamaraja Road. The bicycle routes and the pedestrian walkway together will provide safe and convenient connectivity to the metro stations, shopping complexes, schools and other important places in the area.
Sankaran adds, “The city did not have a sustainable transport policy. All efforts were focussed on enabling unsustainable private traffic at the cost of sustainable transportation. In order to strike a balance we wanted to push the government for a focus on non motorised transport to be included while building transport infrastructure. We chose the CBD as a pilot for using NMT as an inter-modal transportation systems connectivity demonstrator because it connects the Bangalore Metro with other public transport systems, and also serves as a last-mile connector for businesses in the area.”
The Bicycle Network
The bicycle network corridors proposed in the Bangalore NMT project have been divided into exclusive cycle lanes or cycle tracks and mixed cycle lanes. The two types differ in the available road width and the constraints they have. The cycle tracks or exclusive bicycle lane corridors will have separate lanes or tracks reserved for bicycles. This could be either a single lane for bicycles travelling in both directions, or two lanes – one on each side of the road for each direction.
In contrast, mixed lanes will have cyclists sharing road space with other vehicles, but there will be special signs and road markings indicating the part of the road that is meant to be used by cyclists only. Exclusive bicycle lanes offer better separation from motorised vehicles, and prevent bicyclists from making abrupt movements into the path of motorised vehicles. They also allow one-way roads to be used for bidirectional cycle movement, e.g. Residency Road and Richmond Road. On the other hand, it is difficult to get around an obstruction in an exclusive bicycle lane. Further, they tend to get more easily filled with debris and vendors. MG Road, St. Mark’s Road, Residency Road, Richmond Road, Cubbon Road and Kamaraja Road have been identified as areas where exclusive bicycle lanes will be set up while all other areas of the NMT Network will have mixed cycle lanes.
For the cyclists, a sense of safety is of prime importance, as also smooth riding surfaces and knowledge of the cycling route and options available. Thus a well-designed bicycle facility should provide enough separation from motorists, and the construction should be of good quality – avoiding uneven road surfaces, potholes, bumps and other obstacles which make cycling as well as walking very difficult. Drainage and other utility covers should be at level with the cycling surface, or still better, outside the path of the cyclists. The NMT project recommends good drainage of cycle tracks as it ensures that there is no standing water on the track and cyclists don’t get splashed by water while cycling.