Mohammad Tassavar Khan and Vijay Kumar Srivastava, both middle-aged construction contractors, cycle to work every day. Riding for around 3 km, they choose to brave chock-a-block traffic on the main road while passing through the posh Gomti Nagar locality instead of using a brand new cycle track painted red, yellow and green with glowing signages, on which the previous SP government had spent crores.
Asked why they don’t use the track, Khan says, “Free nahi hai (It’s not free),” pointing at a row of cows lazing on the track, next to a few haphazardly parked bikes.
“The track has been built between two roads. They are accident-prone at certain cuts, where speeding vehicles can hit us. So we prefer to ride on the other side of the road,” says Khan, a resident of Gomti Nagar extension.
A few kilometres away, in Patrakarpuram, which houses the main market of Gomti Nagar, the cycle track is occupied by street vendors, repairing locks, stitching bags or selling plastic sheets. One stretch of the track is occupied by a repair shop for two-wheelers.
“The track was not being used anyway, so we are using it temporarily,” says a vendor.
Earlier this week, the Yogi Adityanath government announced that these tracks would soon be removed, triggering a sharp response from former CM Akhilesh Yadav, who warned that the move would spark outrage.
The tracks were one of Akhilesh’s pet projects, born out an idea that struck him during a visit to Netherlands in 2014. Just two months after his visit, the first government order in this regard was issued by then chief secretary Alok Ranjan to all district magistrates, commissioners and heads of development authorities, directing them to plan cycleways, cycle parking areas and a proper traffic system for cyclists as per the “recommended practice for the design and layout of cycle tracks” laid down by Indian Road Congress. Later, officers of PWD, which was made nodal agency for the task, visited countries like Netherlands and Germany for ideas to make the then CM’s dream a reality.
In just two years, (2014-end to 2016-end), Rs 300 crore was spent on developing cycle tracks. The tracks were developed by three agencies — PWD, Lucknow Development Authority and the Housing Development Board, along with respective development authorities in cities like Ghaziabad, Noida, Meerut, Bareilly and Allahabad.
The first set of tracks was constructed around the CM’s residence in Kalidas Marg and the SP party office in Vikramaditya Marg.
While Urban Development Minister Suresh Khanna had recently claimed that these tracks would soon be removed as they were leading to “traffic congestion”, officers on ground said they are yet to receive any such order.
“We have not received any orders regarding demolition of tracks. We would take steps once we receive the orders,” said VK Singh, engineer-in-chief, PWD. “At least the tracks built by PWD were constructed as per the code of Indian Road Congress. We do not know about those constructed by development authorities.”