Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions on Using Bicycles

FAQs on using bicycles as a means of daily transport


Q: Why ride bicycles?

A: There are numerous benefits of using bicycles for daily trips. Some are listed below:

1) They don’t pollute 2) they take up little space as compared to motorized vehicles (cars, rickshaws, motorbikes) 3) they’re cheap and require little to no maintenance 5) If used in dedicated bicycle infrastructure, they will be much faster than cars for journeys between 1km and 6km 6) important cardiovascular and other health benefits


Q: We’re living in the age of space travel; isn’t riding bicycles a thing of the past? Isn’t it anti-development?

A: Development means developing and using technologies that help better everyone’s quality of life. Bicycles are one of the oldest technologies still utilized today and they have survived and thrived in many places because of the high utilitarian value. Some of the best technologies in the world are the oldest. Newer doesn’t necessarily equate to better.


Q: What is dedicated bicycle infrastructure?

A: Dedicated bicycle infrastructure comprises of separate facilities for bicyclists: segregated lanes, bicycle parking stands, signage, and traffic signals for bicycles. However, not all streets need to have segregated lanes; in the inner streets that are less motorized, with the help of traffic calming interventions like speed breakers and roundabouts, a low enough speed (20-30km/h) can be ensured for motor vehicles, allowing for bicycles to be mixed in with traffic. Lower vehicle speeds also allows for more livable streets, with children and pedestrians feeling safer playing and commuting.


Segregated bicycle lanes and related infrastructure is a must on arterial and other busy roads in order to promote bicycle use and cyclist’s safety.


Q: There’s already no space on the roads! Where do we build bicycle lanes? Even so, it won’t help with traffic or pollution anyways

A: The answer is two-fold.

1) If we believe in a democratic society, then everyone has equal rights on the street. Therefore, if there are a considerable number of bicycle users, they must be given space. A survey (2004) found that there were as many people using bicycles in Mumbai as used cars. Bicycles are less visible than cars because they utilize significantly less space on the roads.


2) An increase in the use of bicycles will relieve congestion from the street if dedicated bicycle infrastructure is carefully planned, implemented, and enforced. Research done in The Netherlands, where a high percentage of citizens use bicycles daily, has shown that if bicycle infrastructure is built, the number of bicyclists increases and the number of cars and other motorized modes will reduce. Likewise, if more motorized vehicle infrastructure is built, more motorized vehicle usage will follow, creating more traffic, not less. Therefore, by building bicycle infrastructure, the number of bicycles will increase, the number of cars will decrease, leading to less pollution in our air.


Q: Not many people ride bicycles in Bombay, so who will use the bicycle lanes?

A: This is a false notion.

-There are more bicycles and bicyclists in India than in any European country. Bicycle usage in smaller Indian cities is as high as 25-30% of the overall trips.

- Only 6% of Mumbai’s population has ever used a car for transportation

- The other 94% use public transportation, bicycles, auto rickshaws, taxis, etc.


Q: It’s too hot to ride a bicycle in Mumbai!

A: The packed trains and buses make passengers perspire. Since bicycle riding is not in an enclosed area, the person actually has much better ventilation and tends to perspire less on average than a public transportation commuter.


Q: Who will ride a bicycle in the monsoons?

A: People in Europe ride bicycles when the mercury is at -10 degrees and snowing and continue to ride in inclement weather because of bicycle infrastructure and the great advantages–from time efficiency and cost-effectiveness, to it being pleasurable and healthy.

The bottom line: We will use bicycles anytime, provided there is dedicated infrastructure.





Q: Where will I lock up my bicycle? Don’t things in India get stolen?

A: They get stolen everywhere in the world. Therefore, dedicated bicycle infrastructure needs to have bicycle facilities specifically designed for securely parking and locking bicycles. The parking stations need to be placed at strategic locations around the city like railway stations, bus terminals, other transit hubs, shopping areas, office complexes, parks, sports clubs, and other heavily trafficked areas.


Q: Bicycles are too expensive!

A: For a Rs.1500 you can get one. The cycle will be paid off in 2-5 months only. If a person normally utilizes the bus for 1-5 KM journeys twice a day, every day, they would begin saving money after only 5 months if those same trips were made on their bicycle. If rickshaws are the primary mode of transportation, a person would start saving money in only 2 months or less! Bicycles are a great investment because if you want to upgrade or stop using it altogether, you can sell your cycle and make money back.


Q: There’s no political will for this. This is India.

A: Political will starts on an individual level. If there is political will to build roads and flyovers for cars, there can be political will for the city’s bicycle riders, which presently equal if not outnumber cars. There already are a number of dedicated bicycle infrastructure initiatives that are ongoing in India: New Delhi has already built a pilot bicycle lane, there is more than 16km of bicycle lane in Pune, and several kms has been built in Nanded. Initiatives are continuing in many other Indian cities. Political will starts at a local, neighborhood level, and Bandra will be used as a model for the rest of Mumbai.


Q: Why should I really care anyways?

A: Because it will directly benefit YOU and YOUR family. Whether you’re a car owner, a bicycle rider, or commute by foot, bicycle infrastructure is one important step closer to living in a less congested, less polluted, and more pleasant city. Bicycle infrastructure embodies the idea of a Democratic India: a free, fair and equitable society.


Q: How can we do this? What are we going to do? What can I do?

A: Since the problem and its solutions directly affects you and your community, it is up to individuals like us and the neighborhoods that we live in that need to get directly involved in organizing for a more livable, equitable society.

Here’s what you can do right now:


1)    Start bicycling yourself if you don’t already do so. Once you start, it becomes an enjoyable routine and you will better understand the benefits of bicycle riding and the importance of implementing bicycle infrastructure

2)    Tell your family, friends, and coworkers about why this will help everybody– bicyclists, rickshaw drivers, motorcyclists, and even car drivers!

3)    Talk to your local corporator and insist on bicycling parking and lockup facilities

4)    Ride your bicycle with family, friends, and coworkers together in order to publicly assert the presence and importance of cyclists on the roadways

5)    Write in the newspapers, target local media, and letters to the editor, etc.


If you want to get directly involved in helping us build a mass movement for demanding and creating bicycle infrastructure, please contact the Open Bicycle Project at Building an inclusive and more livable Mumbai starts at the individual level, with you!


The above information and statements are associated with the Open Bicycle Project, Mumbai, and have received support and praise from the KBS (Khar Bandra Santa Cruz) Foundation.

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