Cycling evangelists make some progress

Cyclists will have stands when they visit Lalbagh. Students in Bangalore University can rent cycles within the campus. Cyclists are gradually claiming their space in the city.

Cyclists no longer have to scramble for parking space when they visit Lalbagh through the South Gate. On Sunday, 10th July, a bicycle stand was opened to the public by Suresh Kumar, Minister for Urban Development. Speaking at the inauguration, Suresh Kumar, a supporter of bicycle for commuting, said that there is a need for a clean and green way of commuting. He added that he would make provisions to create cycling infrastructure at bus and metro stations so that commuters can make effective use of public transport.

Newly installed cycle racks at lalbagh. Pic Courtesy: RAC-F

The event was organised by Ride-A-Cycle Foundation (RAC-F), a city based NGO that encourages use of bicycles for commuting. “Cyclists who frequented Lalbagh had always felt the need for a stand and RAC-F pursued the idea with the BBMP and also approached sponsors for the stand,” says Murali H R, associate and design consultant for RAC-F

Suresh Kumar, General Manager, Bharathi Cement Group, that sponsored the bicycle racks said that Bharathi Cement in collaboration with BBMP will install more such stands. They have plans to install similar stands near educational institutions, libraries, shopping complexes, parks and other prominent public spaces.

Namma Cycle in Bangalore University

RAC-F has also initiated ‘Namma Cycle’, an experimental public bicycle sharing project soon to be launched in Bangalore University (BU).The initiative aims to promote use of bicycles within its Jnanabharathi campus. The campus will have seven to eight bicycle stations situated at several key locations, such as the Library, Canteen and Administrative Offices.

RAC-F spoke to over 200 people including staff and students of BU and found that 75% of the people currently walk to commute within the university and only 4% use a bicycle. The library is the most frequented destination with 55% of the people regularly visit the Library. 85% of the people said that they would use the bicycle sharing service if implemented.

A registered user can rent out a bicycle from any one of the stations and use it to commute around the campus. Later, the bicycle can be dropped off at any one of the stations.  “We want to implement this in the entire city but it will be launched first on an experimental basis in Bangalore University first,” says Murali.

Design of the bike station to be installed in Bangalore University. Pic Courtesy: RAC-F

Unisex bicycles will be provided at the stations. University will only provide the space. “The bicycles will be rented out at an average of Rs 3 per hour. The service will be made available to the students and staff of BU. “To register for it, students need to get an application signed by the Head of Department. This will help in curbing thefts,” says Murali. The cycles will also be insured against theft. Depending on the response to the service, the next phase will involve making it available for visitors.

The design for the stations have been done by Bang Design, a Bangalore based design consultancy. Manufacturers for fabricating them are yet to be chosen. The project has already got a tentative green light from BU Vice-Chancellor, Professor N Prabhu Dev.

The proposal is now pending approval of the BU Syndicate. The Syndicate met on July 8. However, the details of the proceedings are yet to be made public. Murali says that RAC-F is hoping to raise funds for the experiment through a mix of goverment and private sources.

A software application over the network will enable the user to drop a bicycle off at a destination other than where it was rented out.  RAC-F will recruit personnel who are computer literate to manage the stations . These stations will be open during the working hours of the University.

“We will approach BBMP and Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation (KUIDFC). We are also looking for corporate partnerships and private social investors (friends of cycling who are willing to gift cycles or the equivalent amount of money),” says Murali.

Lessons from IISc experiment

To promote cycling, RAC-F, in 2010 had conducted a similar experiment in Indian Institute of Science. Cycles, painted in bright colours, to distinguish them from other cycles, were placed around the parking lots of the campus, for students and staff to use. “The project did not really take off as it was a free service and there was no proper maintenance of the cycles. The service eventually fell in to disuse,” says Murali.

Namma cycle is different from the IISc experiment, it is a paid service, hence more accountable. “We had to rethink our whole approach and make it a more sustainable model. With the users being charged, the experiment is being developed as a proper business model which anyone can implement,” says Murali.

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