Reclaiming Pune Roads With 'Bike Bus Movement'

Reclaiming Pune Roads With 'Bike Bus Movement'

Under this initiative, school children led by parents and teachers cycle to school on designated days and designated routes; children along the route also hop on. This is being done to promote road safety and cycling as a healthy activity.

Abhay VaidyaUpdated: Monday, May 27, 2024, 09:11 AM IST
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How can Pune move forward and take the nation along with her in the aftermath of the recent Porsche tragedy which snuffed out two young and promising lives in an instant? Horrific road accidents have become the norm, and it comes as no surprise as India has the highest incidence of road fatalities in the world 1.50 lakh in 2022, according to the World Health Organisation.

While stricter laws and greater road safety need to be enforced by the central and state governments, community initiatives such as the 'Bike Bus Movement' in Europe and America can help citizens reclaim city roads.

During a public discussion about road safety and cycling in Pune organised by crusaders Ranjit Gadgil (Parisar) and Sanskriti Menon some months ago, a suggestion was made for group cycling by children and adults in different localities to promote safe cycling in the city. It was suggested that such cycle rallies, conducted regularly, should involve local community leaders, school authorities, parents, children, politicians, and the police. Incidentally, this is exactly what is happening in many towns and cities in Europe and America, where local communities are driving the 'Bike Bus Movement'.

Under this initiative, school children led by parents and teachers cycle to school on designated days and designated routes; children along the route also hop on. This is being done to promote road safety and cycling as a healthy activity.

The Bike Bus Movement originated in the city of Vic in Spain in 2020 when two school teachers from El Petit Miguel School accompanied nine children to school by bicycle. Overcoming initial hurdles, 'BusBici' gained strength with the number of cyclists rising to nearly 1,000 in the Barcelona Metropolitan Area. The growing community of cyclists demanded and got safe cycling infrastructure for the city. From Europe, the movement has spread to parts of the United States and the UK.

In 2023, the first international 'Bike Bus Summit' was held in Barcelona and the resolution adopted said: “Community bike rides to school make boys and girls happier, awake and ready to learn. Our community becomes more connected and resilient. We show that our streets can also be for the little ones.”

The resolution demanded that political leaders “prioritize urban space and resources for child-friendly, healthy, and safer streets.” Incidentally, there is a strong correlation between road safety and cycling. More cyclists would mean that those driving cars, scooters, mobikes, buses, and autos would be constrained to drive carefully. The authorities would also be compelled to bring in greater safety on our roads. The higher the number of cyclists on our roads, the greater the public pressure on the police and civic administration to ensure the safety of cyclists.

It goes without saying that cycling is not only healthy and eco-friendly but also helps the nation in reducing its fuel import bill. In this age of junk food, diabetes, and climate change, the joy of cycling is witnessing a revival as more and more children and adults alike are taking to it.

Pune, which was the 'Bicycle Capital of India' in the 1960s with hundreds of children, teenagers, and adults cycling to school, college, and work, needs to reclaim its city roads one way or another. The 'Bike Bus' initiative could be part of this drive, setting an example for other Indian cities to follow.

The author is a journalist and works for a policy research think tank. He tweets at @abhay_vaidya

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