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Asia's First Cycling Highway in Uttar Pradesh

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In the olden days, cycling was a necessity. Very few people could afford motorcycles and cars. They were used to travelling several kilometres on a bicycle every day. Thus, everyone was a cyclist. However, with the advancement of technology and large scale urbanization, people who pursue cycling as a hobby have crafted a well-defined niche for themselves. In all major cities, there are groups of cyclists who meet at frequent intervals to go on long cycling tours. Cycling, today, is definitely more than just a hobby. It’s a passion, especially for a healthier lifestyle!

We all know how important exercise is for all of us – it keeps us fit, strong and releases happy hormones that are very important for our mental well-being. We do not pay enough attention to our mental well-being. It’s only recently that people have started talking about it. The efforts of celebrities like Deepika Padukone, in this aspect, are laudable. By bringing focus to such a key issue in everyone’s life, she has broken the socially set parameters of what a celebrity talks about and what he/she doesn’t. In order to keep your lives (which include a million stresses – may be a bad boss, cut-throat work environment, relationship problems, maintaining a social life, lack of sleep, the list could go on and on) in good balance, you need to ensure that there is at least some amount of physical activity.

Cycling Highway in India
Cycling is a brilliant for cardiovascular health ( Image Source )

Cycling is a brilliant form of exercise, especially for cardiovascular health. In this regard, cycling is extremely helpful for those with arthritis in the lower limbs, who are unable to pursue sports that cause impact to the knees and other joints. Since cycling can be used for the practical purpose of transportation, there can be less need for self-discipline to exercise. As there is growing awareness regarding health issues in the younger generation, there is a return of the glorious days of the bicycle. It is now back in fashion and it is now “cool” to be a cyclist!

The Uttar Pradesh government’s incentive for a new cycling highway was basically to promote eco-tourism. This underlying principle of promoting tourism while not neglecting the needs of the ecosystem is definitely commendable. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was influenced by what he had seen in cities like Amsterdam, Berlin and Paris. He caught the young vibe and built something no part of Asia has had before.

Cycling Highway in India
The inauguration of the cycling highway ( Image Source )

The highway starts from the eastern gate of the Taj Mahal, and covers areas such as Raja Bhoj ki Haveli, Bateshwarnath Temple, Mela Kothi Jarar, Naugava ka Quila and other rural areas to reach Lion Safari in Etawah and covers a total of 207 kilometers. Not bad, right? The highway was constructed by the Uttar Pradesh Public Works Department (PWD). Further, a whopping amount of INR 133.78 crore was spent on this project by the Akhilesh Yadav government. It was opened on 26th November 2016, and is 7 feet wide and runs parallel to the main national highway. During the inauguration ceremony, State Minister Abhishek Mishra said, “It is a historical moment as a world-class cycling infrastructure is being made operational not only for locals but also for the people of the state and the nation.” The ceremony at the Lion Safari in Etawah was followed by 90 cyclists from 5 countries and from across India.

Cycling Highway in India
The cycling highway runs parallel to the national highway ( Image Source )

Another aspect to this is the growing awareness in smaller towns. People in smaller towns, thanks to the advancement in information technology, have access to a lot of media and are able to gauge what is good and bad for them, and then make healthy choices. There is a growing cycling culture in the smaller towns in Uttar Pradesh among the youth. And of course, we’re talking about cycling as a form of hobby and not something one needs to pursue under any compulsion. And that is why cycling has come a full circle, earlier it was a necessity and now it’s a hobby! It reached out to people before there was access to advanced technology and even after that. This is cycling 2.0. And it’s not just the people or the “praja” but also the government or the “raja” who have accepted the benefits of cycling and invested a large sum for the people. This is definitely a welcome step and government should be appreciated for trying to connect with the inner wants and needs of people in his state.

The government’s efforts in this direction is motivated by the desire to promote eco-tourism and therefore must be appreciated. We all know why governments love tourists. Tourists bring capital to the government and therefore each state invests money on promoting itself as the best place for a getaway. However, the aspect that goes neglected in this whole deal is about bringing sensitivity among people regarding environment and ecology. Tourists end up littering and harming the biodiversity of the place that they visit and this is a very big problem that India faces. Foreign countries have stringent punishments for littering and harming the ecology, but India doesn’t. The Swachh Bharat campaign is working towards creating consciousness amongst the people but still India hasn’t achieved the consciousness for cleanliness that it needs. Therefore, other state governments must make note of the example and promote tourism with ecological sensitivity.

Cycle Highway India
It also promotes tourism with ecological sensitivity ( Image Source )

Another thing that needs attention here is the encroachments. Whenever a large infrastructural project is undertaken, a large number of people are displaced, owing to the real estate issues. So it is one thing to attract tourists to your state but it should not be at the cost of your own people. This is one aspect that shouldn’t be neglected and more steps need to be taken to stop such incidents.

Although it definitely promotes a healthier and more active lifestyle, we cannot overlook the cost of achieving it. In conclusion, it would be appropriate to say that this project in totality is a welcome step but there are definitely nuances to it that need to be understood.

Another dream come true for cyclists, is the Glow-In-The-Dark Solar Powered Bicycle Path . Haven’t heard of it? Check it out!

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