Author – Ishu Jethani
Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, has witnessed new numerous projects in the city such as the Lucknow-Agra expressway, proposed Metro, Gomti Riverfront; International Cricket Stadium and many more. Apart from these, the City of Nawabs recently witnessed a new initiative by the state government to be a part of the smart cities race – laying of cycle tracks in the city.
Lucknow did not have proper footpaths for pedestrians, so this 100km-long cycle track project proved to be an added advantage for pedestrians as well. Approximately 150,000 people in Uttar Pradesh use cycles as a means of their commute, commonly used by school kids and daily wagers. The former UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav got inspired by the dedicated cycle tracks in the Netherlands and conceptualized this plan for the city. The Lucknow cycle track initiative was undertaken to promote cycling as a healthy way of living and create a greener, pollution-free environment, which in turn could lead to the development of a smart city.
The first cycle track in Lucknow was inaugurated on Kalidas Marg in March 2015. Other areas where these cycle tracks were laid include: Airport Road, Bakshi Ka Talab, Bangla Bazaar, Telibag, Vikas Nagar, Kursi Road, Nirala Nagar, Aliganj, Hazaratganj, Mahanagar, Kapoorthala, Chinhat and Gomtinagar. However, many wondered if these tracks have been used for the purpose they were built for over the last two years? Is it beneficial or is it just acting as another hurdle for the general public of the city?
A reality check shows these neatly constructed cycle tracks are not being used for the purpose they were built for. The picture that we observe across the city is that the Hazaratganj cycle track has been converted into an illegal parking area, some of the tracks in VIP areas like those on the Golf Club, the Kalidas Marg and the Vikramaditya Marg have been occupied by squatters. The scenario that Akhilesh Yadav dreamt for rebuilding the city is now showing its repercussions. The already narrow roads have been further shrunken by these cycle tracks.
Majority of the cyclists still use the main roads for commuting due to various reasons, like disconnect in the tracks, vehicles parking on them, street vendors using them as business platforms, squatters sleeping on them, debris dumping, etc. Even if a cycle rider chooses to ride on the cycle track, he/she is forced to return to the main road where the tracks are not connected. So, riding on the main road is more convenient than the cycle track.
Many local residents complain that the space outside their houses, where they use to park their vehicles, have been used for construction of these tracks, hence they do not have any place to park their vehicle. So, they park their vehicle on the tracks. Further, their construction has resulted in road congestion, especially during peak school and office hours.
Similarly, street hawkers and vendors who used to sell their stuff by the roadside, grumble that their space has been used for constructing cycle tracks and now they do not have any place to do their business. The major obstacles that people face here are bill boards, trees, improper lighting, disconnected tracks and squatters. Despite these obstacles, a chunk of the local population still uses the cycle tracks for walking, cycling; and various purposes.
There is another political angle to this story. The Lucknow cycle track was Akhilesh Yadav’s dream project, and he was determined for ensuring its construction. However, his idea of creating an eco-friendly transport infrastructure first without creating awareness for it is proving to be a disaster. Earlier, the opposition had accused his government of constructing the tracks in order to promote their election symbol – the bicycle. Besides, the cycle tracks have red and green colored pillars, mimicking the SP flag. Here the question arises – were these cycle tracks built actually for the public or was it just another political campaign stunt?
After the formation of the new BJP Government in UP, the new CM Yogi Adityanath stated that if these tracks are not benefiting the general public, then they shall be removed. But before deciding their fortune, the BJP Government is conducting a study on their utility to the public. The Minister of State for Urban Development, Girish Yadav has stated that the decision will be taken keeping in mind the interests of the general public.
However, Yogi Adityanath is currently reviewing almost all the projects undertaken during the Akhilesh Yadav regime. Now, the fate of these cycle tracks solely depends on the BJP regime. Keeping aside these political issues, the citizens of Lucknow need to evaluate the pros and cons of the cycle tracks. They need to be concerned and check whether the construction of the cycle tracks have proved to be a boon for the society or it is simply a hurdle for them?