Parked vehicles and roadside stalls block cycle tracks that have been set up across New Town rendering the only demarcated cycling lanes in the city useless.
Although the tracks are well marked out using paver blocks and fibreglass bollards, they are difficult to ride along because of the obstacles.
Across bicycle-friendly cities in the world, including Antwerp, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Bern among others, motorists, including those riding two-wheelers, keep off the demarcated bicycle lanes.
Lipika Biswas, who works for the Eastern Railway and has cycled across Europe, told The Telegraph she was surprised during her tour of Europe after she saw motorists giving cyclists the right of way with nobody driving a car or riding a two-wheeler even coming close to a bicycle track.
“Here we are used to people honking at us trying to overtake us and angry motorists cutting across our path. The mindset of people here needs to change. The tracks in New Town are a great initiative but are failing their purpose simply because people don’t want to give space to cyclists,” Biswas said.
Hidco, which builds infrastructure across the township, has set up around 17km of graded bicycle tracks in New Town.
In some areas, there is a lane set aside for cyclists on pavements, while in others tracks have been demarcated on roads with green paint and plastic barriers.
The barriers made of reinforced plastic are bolted to the road surface and have been fixed at regular intervals. However, they do little to prevent vendors from setting up stalls on the tracks.
The Telegraph drove through all three action areas of the township and saw several stretches of the tracks being encroached upon by vendors selling fruits and vegetables who had parked their vans and carts on the tracks.
To add to the problems some of the vendors had unloaded their stock on the road with crates and boxes lying not just on the bicycle tracks but also on the main carriageway of the road.
Cars were parked in several sections of the cycle tracks on the road leading from Pride Hotel behind the New Town bus stand to Hidco Bhavan.
Vendors parked their carts on several stretches of the tracks opposite Tata Medical Center in New Town’s Action Area I.
Sundeep Agarwal, who regularly pedals for at least two hours in New Town, said the obstacles on the tracks were proving to be quite risky.
“We try to cycle through the tracks as they are safe. However, the entire purpose is defeated since we have to continuously get off the tracks because of stalls, parked cars or dumped construction materials,” Agarwal said.
A senior official of the New Town Kolkata Development Authority (NKDA) that maintains infrastructure in New Town said that regular awareness drives are carried out.
Stall owners and vendors have been told not to keep their wares or set up stalls blocking pavements and the tracks.
“We will undertake a drive to clear out the tracks. If required we will take the help of the police,” said the official.
New Town has a wellthought cycling ecosystem and apart from the tracks, has an app-based bicycle and e-bike rental service that is quite popular among residents and office-goers.