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#TheCycleOfChange: Its The Right Time To Make Roads Safer For Cyclists, Says IIT Delhi Professor Geetam Tiwari

Highlights

  1. Geetam Tiwari has been working to make Delhi roads safe for two decades
  2. In 1997, she presented the Bicycle Master Plan For Delhi to government
  3. She was also a contributor to the Delhi Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS)

Dr. Geetam Tiwari, Professor in Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Delhi says that roads are hostile for cyclists and policy makers need to take this up. Dr Tiwari has been working for making the national capital cleaner and greener so that cyclists have an appropriate infrastructure. While speaking at the Hero Cycles-NDTV #TheCycleOfChange telethon, she highlighted how people commuting via bicycles are unsafe, she said,

Data shows that even in a city like Delhi, where the roads are very hostile for pedestrians and cyclists, we still have about 13-15 percent trips on bicycle. This is something that we have been working for almost last two decades, in 1997 we presented a plan to the government called the ‘Bicycle Master Plan For Delhi'. The whole proposal was about how we have enough opportunity in our current roads to make them bicycle friendly.

Dr. Tiwari further highlighted that the issue of safety is foremost and the national capital lacks it. She told NDTV during the telethon about what could be done to make roads safer for cyclists, she said,

If we approach Delhi's ring roads or other main roads, they are extremely hostile for bicycles. So to make them safe, I think the accountability has to come from policy makers and decision makers, because in terms of engineering aspects and availability of space, it is possible to do it.

Dr. Geetam also asserted that the reason we don't have enough road space is due to the increasing number of cars. She said, 

An argument for not being able to provide a proper lane for cycles is that we don't have enough road space. But why do we not have enough road space? It is because of increasing number of cars. Today we're are witnessing cleaner air but that was expected because the number of vehicles on the road were reduced. However, the question is, are we willing to do this under non pandemic situations and when we're not put into this emergency situation, she said.  

Dr. Tiwari was also an important contributor to the Delhi Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS). She says that perhaps the plan was way ahead of its time and should have been proposed now, since it also had separate lanes for cyclists and pedestrians,

We think that the concept of BRTS was 20 years ahead of its time. We were tired of explaining TO people that It wasn't just about a bus lane, it was about a holistic organisation of roads. Pedestrians and cyclists had their convenience and it was not just about the buses that were comfortable moving, but the dedicated lane was also for ambulances and emergency vehicles like fire and police, she said.

She further said that no matter how many lanes are provided for cars, they will get filled up eventually, Dr Tiwari said, 

We have seen over the years, that whether you provide cars four lanes or six lanes, they fill up regardless. So in my opinion this is the right time to make use of this opportunity by the decision makers. In the span of next five years, they can make a plan for how to provide convenience and safety to cyclists and pedestrians. Out of people in Delhi dying due to accidents every year, at least 1000 are pedestrians.

Lastly talking about the importance of prioritising public transport and cyclists, she said, 

My understanding is that it's not about money but about priority. If we are making a system, where we said that public transport, pedestrians and bicycles are a priority, then the system (BRTS) has been extremely successful, and all the reports that came out suggested the same, where buses or ambulances were not getting stuck in traffic. 

She concluded by saying that the major focus of BRTS was that to provide a holistic organisation of roads, with a bus lane, car lane, pedestrian lane as well as the cycle lane yet the people were unhappy with the car lanes. 

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