Pune Bicycle Plan- NGOs call upon opposition parties

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Several NGOs and the larger cycling community of Pune have called upon political parties in the PMC to support the bicycle plan and ensure its proper implementation. The bicycle plan was passed by the GB on 21st December last year, but several opposition parties have raised issues regarding the manner in which the plan was passed. The NCP and Congress have also demanded a revenue share from the Public Bike Share (PBS) companies. The issue will come up again in a special GB called for this on the 18th of January, 2018.

Several NGOs have criticized the political parties for trying to sabotage the bicycle plan to score narrow political points. Jugal Rathi from the Pune Cycle Pratishthan said, “We have been fighting for better cycling facilities for decades. The bicycle plan is an important step in that direction. The opposition parties should support the plan and ensure that it is implemented rather than trying to scuttle it. The issues raised by them can be handled at an administrative level”. Harshad Abhyankar of the Institute for Transport and Development Policy (ITDP), a member of the Bicycle Advisory Committee, dismissed the idea of raising revenues from the PBS companies. “The PBS companies will be investing hundreds of crores to launch share bicycles in the city. Worldwide theft and vandalism of these cycles is a big risk and financial challenge. The companies will only make a profit if they operate very efficiently and cycle usage is high. Even if the PBS vendors make a little profit, note that car manufacturers alone make an annual profit of at least Rs 300 Cr in Pune alone, by selling vehicles that pollute the city, cause congestion and lifestyle diseases. Instead, high cycle usage will benefit the city tremendously, reducing pollution and congestion. It is a win-win situation for us”, he said.Sujit Patwardhan of Parisar, which has been pushing for the adoption and execution of a bicycle plan since 2012, ridiculed the idea of trying to raise revenues from cycling. “The city has an obligation to provide safe city-wide infrastructure for cycling, whether or not there is any PBS. Trying to squeeze companies that are just launching shared cycling schemes in the city is a terrible idea and shows the lack of political support for cycling in the city. The same political parties have been talking about Climate Change and reducing our carbon-footprint, but then try to sabotage the bicycle plan! These same corporators think nothing about the cost to PMC when recommending car oriented infrastructures like Flyovers and Underpasses/Grade Separators which only encourage more personal vehicles to come on the roads”, he added.

Jayant Joshi said, “Flyovers and similar projects benefit motorists (which include PMC officials and corporators) who are very vocal. But when it comes to weaker strata of the society (poor, lower middle class and children), instead of supporting such projects, the corporators oppose it as this section of the society has no voice”.

The consortium of iTrans, Prasanna Desai Architects and Centre for Environment Education (CEE) prepared the bicycle plan, which has been supported by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Gov’t of India. The Ministry has been strongly supporting and promoting cycling in cities as a way to beat congestion and pollution and as a way to provide an affordable mode of transport to the urban poor. Sanskriti Menon of CEE, which conducted the public hearings stated that detailed presentations were given individually to all 15 Prabhag Samitis which were attended by corporators and who welcomed the bicycle plan. “The plan has been available on the PMC website from the beginning. We received many good suggestions that have been incorporated into the final plan”, she confirmed. CEE has also received support of hundreds of cyclists who have lauded the effort of the PMC to improve cycling.

A cyclist from Magarpatta who responded to the survey on views about the draft cycle plan wrote, “This is critical work. To make Pune a bicycle friendly city would change the city for the better monumentally. If cars continue and bicycle infrastructure is put on the wayside, the city is going to drown in motor vehicle traffic and we will all suffocate. Pune will not be a good place to live.  If this becomes another infrastructure plan in India that gets corrupted and not enforced, it will be a sad day for the country. Let Pune be the shining light for the rest of India, it can and should be, to lead the way for cycling infrastructure and implementation and sustainability throughout Asia. We must not fail!”

The Bicycle Plan proposes a city-wide network of cycle tracks and cycle lanes, bicycle parking and the setting up of a bicycle department within the PMC with a dedicated staff and budget. The PMC has already signed MoUs with several PBS companies to launch shared cycles in the city. The pilot launches have been very popular so far. “More cycles will give people options and ensure quality and availability of cycles”, said Ranjit Gadgil. Charging these companies a royalty is a bad idea, as they will pass on the cost to the consumer eventually. The PMC must support these efforts rather than trying to look at them as a revenue source”, he added.

In Aundh, already the number of public bicycle trips by Zoomcar Pedl are over 1000 per day on an average, with a lot of positive feedback from users.

Ofo has launched services in Pune University. Yulu will also introduce 70 cycles very soon.

To ensure that our elected representatives and political parties know the views of the public/ citizens, you could send them a message on WhatsApp or SMS: I support the Pune Cycle Plan and Public Bicycle Share systems. 

PMC should create safe cycling infrastructure, make public cycles available and promote cycling, not try to earn revenue from PBS.