It was summer of 2019, around 6 months have just passed, and I am already feeling as if I am not breathing. Such is my relationship with cycles.
When you migrate from a city which itself is bustling with motor vehicles to another city which carries the tag of being the most polluted city in the world, routine cycling on its roads is a distant dream…
Not having infrastructure is another consideration, even if one have the deepest of urge to cycle around Gurgaon, one needs to have a big heart to mitigate rash driving and of course need to remember that the pollution level is 13 times more than the level permitted under WHO guidelines (Source: World Economic Forum).
Here I am in Gurgaon – a very popular destination among career aspirants in multinational and Indian corporates. The city has got opportunity in abundance. Located in Southwest of India’s National Capital Delhi, Gurgaon’s economic growth journey started during 1970s when Maruti Suzuki established a plant here and since then the growth have been manifolds. Now, Gurgaon has 250+ local offices of Fortune 500 companies. The city has become a leading financial and industrial hub with the third-highest per capita income in India.
Flip side of industrial development is noticed when it leaves behind precipitance of toxic air. Gurgaon’s development can be earmarked by the unabated constructions. A city which has a rural history, to have converted into an economic hub of modern India, must have been a relentless effort.
A city which has an area of 732 sq km, density of population is 1,200/sq km. Compared to Guwahati, Gurgaon is almost double the size of the Northeast city which has an area of 328 sq km. While Gurgaon’s size is almost double, the population density is 1200 persons per sq km which is much lesser than Guwahati’s 2900 persons per sq km. With this logic, the roads in Gurgaon should have lesser stress in comparison to those in Guwahati.
While there are multiple success stories weaved about Gurgaon, one of the primary concerns for the commoners in this part of the country is that the roads here mostly belong to the motorists. This is a fact even in those countries where majority of the population doesn’t own car (In India, 11 per cent of the households own a car). Statistically, 33 per cent of Gurgaon households own cars compared to Delhi where 20 per cent of households own cars. It is so unfortunate that crossing the road on foot is considered as high-risk behavior and Gurgaon is exactly a model showcasing the same behavior.
I have not seen any road in Gurgaon which has infrastructure for slow moving commuting mediums. Even the authorities have shared data which shows there is sharp decline (from 53 per cent to 40 per cent) in usage of cycles, walking and public transport. It is possible for Gurgaon to cut down on a significant number of motorized trips by making the city more walkable and cycle friendly. Gurgaon has short travel distances and can be easily converted into a city which is walkable and friendly for cyclists. More than 45 per cent of trips are between 0-2 km, 8 per cent of trips are between 2-6 km and 8 per cent of trips are less than 10 kms.
Maximum trip length can be covered by buses, but due to less availability of buses, people depend on personal mode of transport. Advantage in Gurgaon is to leverage and convert major parts of the short distance motorized trips into non-motorized trips.
Policymakers should note that getting faster-commutable roads and in-fact more roads will not be an environment-friendly solution. They need to think of sustainable modes of transport like e-busses, cycle and walking. Globally the trend is to reduce vehicular traffic by putting stress on less space for parking, by reducing speed inside cities, but in India our cities are adopting designs to increase the speed of vehicles and thereby discouraging green mode of communication.
My tryst with cycles cannot end like this just for want of space and pollution. That’s my oxygen and I live hearty and happy only when I pedal. Changing city, hostile environment will never stop me sitting on the saddle. The wait might have been little too long this time. Will share fresh new experience on the saddle…only me and my bike…