By Mahima Devkota
Kathmandu, June 3: World bicycle day is celebrated around the world today. However, in Nepal, cycling in the cities is tantamount to risking one’s life for there is no cycle lane. Although cycling is good for health and the protection of the environment, and it is the cheapest means of transport for financially constrained people, the government is yet to come up with any proper policy and programme for ensuring cycle lanes in the cities.
People who love cycling or do it out of compulsion have demanded a bicycle lane on the road so that they are not intimidated by rushing motorised vehicles.54-year-old Suman Manandhar from Tethi, Kwabahal, Kathmandu Metropolitan City-17, has been riding a bicycle since he was 10 in the country’s capital city. He has seen both the empty road of the metropolis and the exhausting traffic jams, of past and present.
He said, “Despite hurdles and traffic jams, I will ride a bicycle till I can as it is only not a means of transport but a way of healthy living for me.”
Manandhar, who is a Nepal Bhasa campaigner, was seen distributing pamphlets about Nepal Bhasa by riding his bicycle. He said, “Just as my language is important to me, my bicycle weighs the same love and admiration.”
Similarly, Raju Pandey has been riding the same bicycle today that he rode when he was struggling to survive. He and his father returned to Nepal from Myanmar (Burma) when he was 20 years old. He recalls a time there was no roof over his head, no food on the table, and no understanding and speaking of the Nepali language to express himself.
He said, “I then started to sell water in Tundikhel and did odd jobs for a living. Gradually, my financial situation improved, even after that I did not leave my dear bicycle which has seen my worst and best.”
He said, “Now my son rides a car in Australia, but I will not stop riding my bicycle. I am free of any chronic diseases due to paddling but it has become a medium with which I commute and aid my ill wife.” A bicycle ride is a solace for me, which helps me to live a healthy and stress-free life.
For Rita Gurung, 36, a domestic help, a bicycle has been a means of earning her livelihood, as she commutes to and from work on a bicycle every day. A single mother of two children, Gurung came to Kathmandu to make a living. She got a job as a domestic worker but she was living far from the employer’s house. So, she bought a bicycle and since then she is using it as a means of transport.
Bicycle riding is a pollution-free mode of transport and uses minimal fossil fuels. Bicycles reduce the need to build, service, and dispose of cars.
Environmental benefits of using a bicycle
Indu Bikram Joshi, Deputy Director General (DDG) at the Department of Environment under the Ministry of Forest and Environment, said that riding a bicycle produces no pollutants, unlike motorized vehicles which cause environmental damage by emitting pollutants into the atmosphere.
Bicycles consume little to no fuel to operate therefore no non-renewable fuels are exhausted. It also reduces the need for parking spaces, therefore, no vegetation is destroyed to build parking spaces.
Health Benefits of using a bicycle
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), safe infrastructure for walking and cycling is also a pathway for achieving greater health equity. For the poorest urban sector, who often cannot afford private vehicles, walking and cycling can provide a form of transport while reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, diabetes, and even death. Accordingly, improved active transport is not only healthy; it is also equitable and cost-effective.
Dr. Samir Mani Dixit, a public health expert, viewed, “Exercise of any sort is good for health and cycling not only maintains good health but also helps in maintaining environment as well.”
Cycling reduces the chances of non-communicable disease
He said that cycling helps to move many parts of the body, therefore reducing the chances of non-communicable diseases by regulating blood flow, maintaining the heartbeat, balancing sugar levels in the blood, and burning fat which prevents illnesses such as heart disease, liver disease, kidney diseases, and diabetics.
Ensures Positive Outlook in life
He said that cycling helps in producing Endorphins, a protein that is primarily synthesized by the pituitary gland in response to physiologic stressors such as pain, which invites positivity and positive thinking in life. It also helps in eye vision and can help in socializing and forming groups as well.
According to the research titled Study conducted Health Benefits Of Cycling: A Systematic Study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, regular cycling strengthens heart muscles, lowers the resting pulse, and reduces blood fat levels. Research also shows that people who cycle to work have two to three times less exposure to pollution than car commuters, so their lung function is improved.
Need to ensure bicycle lanes to make bicycles as a transport more frequent
Guru Prasad Adhikari, CDE of the Road Division Office under the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport (MoPIT), said that there has not been any discussion or planning for the construction of the cycle lane in the country.
He mentioned the lack of availability of land for the expansion which has constrained the construction of the cycle lane in the country.He mentioned the lack of availability of land for the expansion which has constrained the construction of the cycle lane in the country.
He pointed out the effectiveness and use of the cycle lane from Bagmati Bridge to Jwalakhel and has urged to include this topic in the government policy saying that it would be easy to carry out the plans if construction of the cycle lane and road expansion is included in the national policy.