Cycling and Walking : Need to Promote for Better Mobility

Kathmandu, the capital city and largest city of Nepal,is the central hub of administrative, political, economic activities of the country.  According to CBS, in 2011, population in Kathmandu valley was 2.5 million and now it is estimated to be more than 5 million.  Along with the increase in population, the number of motor vehicles has increased tremendously. Around 12,00,000 vehicles are currently registered in Kathmandu Valley.

Author : Ashish Gajurel,Transportation Expert,  [email protected]

Traffic congesting has become way of life in the valley. Government of Nepal is striving to manage traffic congesting mainly through expansion and widening of roads. But this strategy has not been successful. The government must now focus on improving other modes of transport like public transportation, cycling and walking. Currently it is estimated that around 40% of the total trips of Kathmandu is through walking. Cycling is just 1.5 percent of the total trips. The modal share of cycling is negligible and needs to be improved. The trend shows that share of walking is decreasing as people prefer to use motorized vehicles for safety and comfort.

A bicycle lane is a space of the road designated for the exclusive use of cycling. Cyclists are the vulnerable stakeholders of the road and need to be protected. Riding two-wheeler is riskier in comparison to four-wheeler. Most of the countries in the world have been promoting cycling because of its health, environmental and economic benefits. For comfortable walking and cycling width of sidewalk should be 1.5 m to 3 m and bicycle lane 1.2 m.

According to Gloucestershire Country Council (2012), bicycle lane should be 2m wide on busy roads, or where the average speed of traffic is beyond 40 mph. A minimum width of 1.5m may be acceptable on roads with a 30 mph speed limit. For cycle feeder lanes to advanced stop line arrangement, a minimum width of 1.2m may be applicable. With 2m width bicycle lane, overtaking is possible.

This would ensure safety for pedestrian and cyclists and this will in turn promote people to walk and cycle. For instance,the width of sidewalk and cycle lane is appropriate along 2.6 km road section between Tinkune and Maitighar in Kathmandu. This concept needs to be expanded and developed as a network. Building appropriate sidewalks and cycle lane only in some sections will not promote walking and cycling.

Netherlands Prime Minister, Mark Rutte locks his bicycle as he reaches to Royal Palace.

The Netherlands, Denmark and China are some countries that have good proportion of people using bicycle for commuting. Cycling cannot be promoted only through the national policies. To promote cycling it should be safe, enjoyable, and relaxing to ride a bicycle. The basic requirements for these is building a separate bicycle lane. Besides, it is also important to develop junctions, circles, traffic lights, and city policies for bicycle to improve safety while crossing the road sections or intersections.

As Nepali people have become more health conscious these days, cycling and walking can be linked to health of the people as a promotion tool. One can avoid morning walk if he/she walks or cycle to work. People go for morning walk and then uses motorized vehicles to commute to work. This could be replaced by walking or cycling. This will help in reducing traffic on the road and dependency on the imported petroleum products.

Infrastructure alone cannot ensure safety. People should obviously feel secured for walking or cycling. Usually, people do not feel safe and secure to walk early in the morning or late at nights. In addition, street dogs are another big threat for walkers on the roads of Kathmandu. Theissues should also be addressed to promote cycling and walking.

Various groups and associations in Nepal are advocating for bicycle lane. In a bid to develop a sustainable transportation system, promotion of cycling will be much helpful. Currently, cycle rallies are being organized to attract the attention of the city planners to develop infrastructure for cycling. In this context, Lalitpur metropolitan city has already allocated budget for developing a bicycle lane and has already initiated study of the bicycle lane.

Promoting cycling and walking means convincing people to shift the mode of transport from motorized vehicle to non-motorized. The less the people use motorized vehicle, lesser will be the vehicles on road which will result in fewer traffic congestion and accidents besides the reduction in air pollution. Promotion of public transportation, walking and cycling should be carried simultaneously to have an efficient transportation systems. This strategy will help in reducing private vehicle ownership thus reducing the total number of vehicles on roads.

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