India’s Health Minister Wants Protected Bike Lanes Nationwide

There’s encouraging news out of India, where cities expect to add hundreds of millions of residents in the next few decades but are already choking on traffic congestion and auto exhaust.

The Indian government appears to be embracing bicycling. Photo: Wikipedia
A senior Indian government official wants the nation to embrace bicycling. Photo: Wikipedia

Dr. Harsh Vardhan was appointed to lead India’s health ministry by newly elected prime minister Narendra Modi this May, and he wants to promote bicycling as a way to improve public health and air quality while adding more transportation options, especially for low-income people.

According to the Indian news outlet First Post, Vardhan would like to see a nationwide effort to install protected bike lanes:

Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said that he will approach the Surface Transport and Urban Development Ministries for the development of cycle tracks alongside roads to make cycling a “huge movement” in the country.

“I will personally write to Surface Transport and Urban Development Ministries to do whatever they can in this initiative and also ask them to develop cycle tracks,” Vardhan said as he released a study report titled “Peddling towards a Greener India: A Report on Promoting Cycling in the Country”, prepared by the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi on Wednesday.

The report also recommended that India offer residents micro-loans to purchase bikes, as well as tax incentives to promote bicycling.

The health problems that auto emissions cause are now grave enough to threaten India’s economy, as the number of private vehicles has tripled to 130 million since 2003.

  • Joe R.

    While this looks good on the surface, protected bike lanes only exist because too many motor vehicles make riding on roads dangerous. Motor traffic never should have reached levels in India which would necessitate protected bike lanes. I find it unbelievable that developing countries like India and China, neither of which had many cars 25 years ago, chose to follow a failed path. They could have bypassed the automotive era entirely, built mainly subways/railroads instead of highways, but chose not to. It’s a shame they didn’t take a hard look at countries like the US. They would have realized catering to private autos is a Faustian bargain at best.

  • Maggie

    Cycling infrastructure is an awesome idea for India. They really spelled the report title Peddling, though? Really??

  • MICHAEL

    Even Modi himself was advocating cycling (e.g., “Cycle to Work Once a Month / http://www.indiatimes.com/news/india/cycle-to-work-once-a-month-narendra-modi-107157.html). Now only actions have to follow words. However, as at the grass route level there is quite some advocacy activity, (at least in Bangalore to were i moved recently from New York), this should maintain pressure for actions. And even though the few bike lanes here do face the problem of parked cars (not unfamiliar to NYC :-), riding a bicycle overall is IMHO already easier here as mutual respect and collaboration among traffic participants is (much) better than in NYC (you just have to be assertive and get used to the flexible interpretation of traffic laws ;-)…

  • Michael Andersen

    “Cycle track” seems to be used often in the UK the way Americans use the word “bikeway”: i.e. it could be a painted lane and it could be an off-road path. Do we have any idea if Vardhan specifically meant separated on-street infrastructure a la China or Denmark?

  • He did use the term cycle track. And no, I’m not sure. Generally i think of PBLs and cycle tracks as synonymous.

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