After crores spent, BJP govt to demolish Akhilesh Yadav's pet cycle tracks
After crores of rupees have been used to build cycle tracks in different parts of the state, the Uttar Pradesh government has decided to dismantle them to widen roads to ease traffic snarls.
These cycling tracks were among the signature projects of former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, who had gotten inspired to build them after travelling to Holland.
Incidentally, the symbol of the Samajwadi Party is a cycle.
The state’s urban development minister Suresh Khanna said in a statement that the roads need to be widened given the size of the population in the state. The cycle tracks, he said, had narrowed down roads and were hampering the movement of traffic.
Khanna isn't entirely off track. Even while the SP ruled the state, the construction cost for the tracks was viewed as a rip off because of the exorbitantly high cost -over Rs 1 crore per km.
An expensive project
A total of 66 km of tracks were constructed in two phases by the Public Works Department and the development authority of various districts.
In the first phase in Lucknow, 35 km of cycle tracks were built at an expenditure of Rs 31 crore and 31 km were constructed in the second phase at a cost of Rs 34 crore. Another 204 km of cycle tracks were proposed to be built in the state capital in the third phase.
In all, over 350 km of cycle tracks were constructed by the SP government in Noida, Lucknow and other parts of the state.
Utility wise, these tracks have been used by vendors and petty shopkeepers to hawk their wares. Policemen and civic body officials have also allegedly “rented out” these spaces.
Where there were no encroachments, cyclists were still pushed out by motorcyclists and scooterists, leading many to question the project’s utility in a state where people lack traffic discipline.
The pillars along the 207 km Agra to Etawah Lion Safari “cycle highway” are also used to tie cattle at many places.
The cycle tracks have earlier been criticised by SP’s political rivals as pillars demarcating the cycle tracks were painted red and green, the colours of the party’s flag.
Now the Yogi Adityanath government has decided to do away with the tracks starting with Bareilly where the traffic situation is really bad.
Akhilesh Yadav has accused the present dispensation of political vendetta and prejudice. Countering the government’s decision, he promises to promote cycling and cycle tourism if he came to power in 2022. Saying that his project had won him appreciation from world leaders, the former chief minister hit out at the BJP government for disregarding pollution concerns.
He said that a provision would be made for a Rs 10 lakh compensation to the next of kin of cyclists dying in road accidents.
He also reminded the state government that when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Holland he was gifted a bicycle by the host nation’s prime minister.
Other SP projects run into trouble
This was not the first scheme of the previous government which has not found favour with the present regime. The Samajwadi Party Pension Yojna and the smart phone distribution schemes had earlier run into trouble.
In 2014, the Allahabad High Court had directed the Principal Secretary, Urban Development, to plan construction of cycle tracks in the urban areas of the state and also “explain steps for the maintenance” of the existing tracks.
A division bench headed by the then Chief Justice DY Chandrachud had stressed on a policy as “first and foremost” necessity for cycle tracks and warned that ad hoc construction may end in loss of public money as the tracks would be rendered unusable for lack of maintenance.
Two years after the High Court made the observation, they seem to have come true.