Building adequate cycling infrastructure and promoting people to ride bicycles instead of gas-guzzling vehicles sound ideal in the Kathmandu Valley where its residents are habituated to work and live a life of hustle and bustle. The modern busy life may demand the speedy means of transportation for fastness and efficiency. But there is growing interest in the cycling considered to be a practical approach to reduce pollution, ease traffic congestion and enhance a healthy life. Last week, the capital Valley witnessed the alarming level of air pollution. The capital city registered the air quality index crossing 600, which earned it a bad title - the most polluted city in the world. Though the air quality has improved in the subsequent days, the unprecedented spike in toxic air is a wake-up call for all residents living in the capital.
Environmentalists see the answer to hazardous pollution in cycling. There is a reason behind their exhortation for the effective policy and investment in constructing cycling lanes on the road and habit of using cycles in the community. This is because the fuel-run vehicles alone contribute up to 28 per cent of pollutants, as per a 2017 study by the Department of Environment. And cycling can be an affordable means of transport that drastically curbs emissions. It is a green initiative that produces zero CO2 emissions and is compatible with nature. Under the mounting pressure from the cycle campaigners, various policies and steps have been taken at the different levels of government to promote it in the Valley in the last couples of years.
According to the news report of this daily, Lalitpur Metropolitan City Lalitpur and UNDP Nepal Office signed an MoU to develop an app called Mero Cycle that is designed to motivate commuters to switch to cycling through incentives. Based on this app, a user can be awarded Rs. 10 for every 10 km he or she pedals. They are entitled to special badges, stars and shield every month provided they actively participate in the cycling activity. The officials involved in boosting this app state that cycling game can be potentially converted into a local carbon-trading measure with cyclists getting extra credits for their role in cutting carbon emissions. In order to implement this scheme, a campaign ‘Mero Cycle for Healthier Cities’, was launched on Saturday with a bike parade.
Despite a number of accords and guidelines adopted to build cycle lanes on the major roads of the valley, they are yet to be implemented. For example, the Department of Roads (DoR) and the Chinese Shanghai Construction Group had inked deal to construct cycle lanes on both sides of the Ring Road from Kalanki to Koteshwore but it did not happen. A bicycle lane was built along the Maitighar-Tinkune stretch in 2014 but it does not exist today. The Ministry of Urban Development had unveiled ‘Nepal Urban Road Standards 2076’ that has clearly specified incorporation of a two-metre wide dedicated cycle lane in arterial, sub-arterial and collector roads. Similarly, the Kathmandu Valley Air Quality Management Action Plan-2020 has stressed the need for building cycling infrastructures. However, there is lacking in a strong commitment and resources to materialise these policies. It is imperative to generate awareness of the positive aspects of cycling among the people, which will create enabling atmosphere to implement the above agreements, thereby promoting cycling culture and healthier life.