How can Hyderabad become safe for cyclists again?
Once upon a time, Hyderabad was the “city of cycles”. Ask the elders and they will tell you how the streets were full of cyclists, a stark contrast to the cluttered mess of cars and motor vehicles that have taken over every road, large and small. In the past, it was also much safer for cyclists, as there were fewer motor vehicles on the roads and therefore the risk of cyclists facing serious or fatal accidents was low. Things, however, have changed drastically now.
As Hyderabad’s bicycle mayor, I am in close contact with the city’s cycling community and often hear about unfortunate incidents, whether they are accidents on bumpy roads or phone calls. brought together in cases of hit-and-run or ill-treatment of cyclists by motorists in the streets.
If I think back to just the past two weeks, a Tankbund rider had a hit and run crash involving a Honda City in Madhapur. Another cyclist, Monu Yadav, was struck by a two-wheeler in the Kukatpally area. Punctures and broken spokes due to rutted roads in the Nizampet area are a common occurrence. In fact, I myself had an accident when I was hit from behind by a car on the Biodiversity signal. It took me 10 days to recover from the injury.
Hyderabad perhaps reflects the reality of most Indian cities today and justifies the questions surrounding our current model of urbanization: is this the right model to follow? In all the cities of India and in many other parts of the world, the roads are almost exclusively designed for cars and motor vehicles, without thinking too much about pedestrians and cyclists. Can we rethink the whole approach and instead build more inclusive roads that will also invite and welcome pedestrians and non-motorized transport users?
Read more: “Cycling will transform Hyderabad and create a happier city”
Let’s take a look at the issues that cyclists in Hyderabad face today. I ask myself, as a daily commuter on a bicycle or as a utility cyclist, do I have a safe route to get from one place to another in the city? For example, if I need to exit Madhapur to BHEL or Banjara Hills to Gachibowli, do I have bike paths that will allow me to ride smoothly and safely? Can I allow my 15 year old daughter to drive to school by car unattended, the same way I did at school? Unfortunately, the answer to all of these questions is a “no”.
Just as cyclists are not safe without a cycle path, the city’s pedestrians also lack continuous trails to move safely from one place to another.
How should the city create cycle paths?
The cycle paths are of different categories: integrated (no separate lanes), separated (delimited by a painted line drawn to delimit the cycle path), dedicated (separate roads for cyclists) and divided (borders built between the cycle path and the other road users). Currently, we have integrated roads where cyclists have to share the same road space with other motorists. In the absence of any track discipline, this makes them increasingly vulnerable to accidents.
There are reserved lanes in our city, but unfortunately all of them are misused or violated by the parking lot including the lanes around KBR park, Hussain Sagar lake.
The first step would be to choose the routes to prioritize: What are the most used routes for daily trips to workspaces, for example where offices and commercial buildings are concentrated? One of the first areas that comes to mind is the high tech city, and all roads leading to or inside the high tech city should be targeted. Then there are many government offices in Khairatabad and Lakdikapool area. Roads leading from Secunderabad, Gachibowli, Miyapur or Uppal would also be good choices.
Once the routes are chosen, appropriate cycle lanes should be constructed depending on the availability of road space and, just as with footpaths, continuity should be maintained for all cycle paths through the city. Ideally, the government could seriously rethink town planning to accommodate cyclists and ensure their safety.
Read more: What I face everyday as a pedestrian in Hyderabad
Responsibility of citizens
Cyclists include everyone, and not only include those who cycle for fitness or recreational cyclists, but also those who go to work or use bikes for a living. They may not belong to the upper class of society, but they contribute significantly to the economy, even as unskilled labor. It is the government’s duty to ensure that the condition of the roads ensures their protection.
At the same time, part of the responsibility for safety also falls on commuters, both on bicycles and those who drive other motorized vehicles.
Cyclists themselves must:
- Wear helmets,
- Obey all traffic rules,
- Add lights to the front and back
- Stay on the left side of the road.
On the same road, however, they often have to share space with other reckless motor vehicle drivers, oncoming drivers and even drunk drivers. In general, there must be sufficient awareness among all road users and in particular those of motor vehicles. They must
- Maintain track discipline
- Open doors with caution
- Always follow signs and traffic rules
- Give way to vehicles on wider roads or open the way for pedestrians and cyclists, and most importantly
- Respect cyclists and pedestrians on the road.
What cyclists want in Hyderabad
In summary, a three-pronged strategy is needed to make the city streets again welcoming to cyclists:
Education: Basic awareness and education are essential for all. One of the best ways to do this is to include these aspects in the courses taught and training given in driving schools.
Enforcement: Strict law enforcement for all motor vehicle drivers in Hyderabad, who must give priority to pedestrians and cyclists.
Encouragement: The government can come forward to encourage citizens to cycle and take all of the measures described above to make it safe for them.