On December 31, 44-year-old cyclist Nithin Agarawal was run over by a drunk driver in Hyderabad’s Gachibowli when he and his friends were cycling.

A man wearing an helmet riding a cycle on a deserted flyoverIMAGE COURTESY: PICXY/ABDUL MUNAFF
news Infrastructure Thursday, January 06, 2022 - 15:53

The death of 44-year-old Nithin Agarwal, a cyclist who was hit by a car in Gachibowli on December 31, has shaken the cycling community in Hyderabad. In the accident, a few other cyclists accompanying Nithin also suffered minor injuries. The tragic death caused by a drunk driver on the road near Botanical Garden, without a dedicated bicycle lane, has prompted the cycling community to launch a campaign for an overhaul in the city’s infrastructure, which would respect both pedestrians and cyclists and their right to access road as much as motorists.

“The perception of cycling as a fitness fad should change,” Santhana Selvan, the ‘Bicycle Mayor’ of Hyderabad, told TNM. “There are lakhs of people who use bicycles for their commute to work, and schools. The mindset of laying lanes for a few kilometres to accommodate only a few fitness enthusiasts should change,” he added, explaining why an overhaul in the system is needed.

Hyderabad has dedicated bicycle lanes — around KBR National Park, Hitex, Hussain Sagar and a few other areas. There is also a cycling park — Pala Pitta cycling park in Kothaguda — dedicated to cycling enthusiasts. 

“In Europe, people can travel from one place to the other because they have dedicated lanes. Similarly, we should also have lanes from point to point,” said Selvan. It may not be practical in a few places. At such places, Selvan recommends a bicycle sharing system and a facility to park cycles in the bus stations. “This would be a visionary step. The engineers designing the city’s infrastructure should approach it from this perspective,” he added.

Besides infrastructure, cyclists urge motorists to respect pedestrians and cyclists, who share the same road. “When issuing licenses to motorists, the Regional Transport Authority should give an orientation and spread awareness to not look at pedestrians and cyclists as insignificant people,” Selvan suggested.

Following Nithin’s death, at least 400 members from various cycling associations had planned to organise a gathering at the KBR Park on January 9, urging motorists to respect cyclists. However, as the Telangana government has imposed COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, the community has deferred the date, tentatively, to January 11.

Sai Ratna Chaitanya Gurugubelli, a former Research Associate from Transport Training at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), who advocates public transport, said, “All users must be considered while designing a street. In the current state of affairs, motorists come first, so primacy is given to the carriageway, and whatever is left is designated as a footpath. Facilities for pedestrians, the most vulnerable users of the road, are always an afterthought.”

Giving an example of Jubilee Hills Road No 45 (a busy junction where cars mostly occupy the road space), he said, “The footpath was constructed months after the flyover was inaugurated. Besides, the footpath was constructed where there was a space left after laying two lanes of the road. It ends abruptly at many places, making it difficult for those walking on that road.”

Hyderabad’s roads are not pedestrian-friendly. One of the examples is the civic authorities constructing foot-over bridges at several busy intersections (for example, the foot over bridge near Masab Tank), which cannot be accessed by persons with disability. “Why should anyone go up and down stairs or even escalators, just to cross the road?” Chaitanya said.

“Signalise the intersections and provide safe road crossings at frequent intervals, especially in market areas. There are already good examples of such pedestrian-only signals at places like JNTU, Madhapur Image Hospital, and Dilsukhnagar etc,” he said.

Not just footpaths, but lack of safe crossings affects pedestrians. “Many intersections in Hyderabad were closed in favour of U-turns, and these turns have no signals, leaving pedestrians at the mercy of motorists, who never stop let alone slow down,” Chaitanya said. 

Meanwhile, last year in August, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) planned to introduce a Cycle Sharing System (CSS) on a pilot basis in the Khairatabad zone. The Cycle Sharing System, which is still in progress, will allow commuters to rent a cycle and drop it off at designated locations after use. The aim is to encourage more people to adopt eco-friendly and low-cost mobility solutions.

The GHMC is also going to build a 46-kilometre-long cycle track within the Khairatabad zone. Dedicated cycle tracks are being built across 95 cities in India as part of the India Cycles 4 Change challenge under the Smart Cities Mission. Warangal and Karimnagar in Telangana are part of the Smart Cities Mission of the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA). 

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