Lack of cycle lanes adds to delivery workers’ woes

Bangalore Top Story

Dug up roads and under-construction lanes spark worries about safety of delivery workers on e-bikes.

Delivery workers using e-bikes in Bangalore are at risk as they are forced to ride through traffic due to incomplete cycle lanes. These lanes were to be built under the Smart Cities Mission, which has been delayed.

A report by Bengaluru Smart City Limited (BSCL),  shows that 36 roads in the city were to be developed by BSCL in collaboration with Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Bengaluru Traffic Police and other local associations, in 2017 and work was to begin in 2019. Construction of cycle lanes was one of the major features of these roads. The project was slated to be completed by the end of May 2020. However, the report said the pandemic and national lockdown delayed the implementation of the project.

There has been a rise in use of e-bikes by delivery executives in the city after the pandemic but construction of cycle lanes is progressing at a slow pace. In the Central Business District (CBD) area, the Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) provided designs for around 10 km of connected network of lanes. Out of this, only 2.5 km has been completed at Raj Bhavan Road, Race Course Road and Planetarium Road, according to Sonal Kulkarni, Senior Urban Transport Planner of DULT.

“I drive on normal roads and not on separate lanes. But, it would be easier if there were separate lanes,” said Sunil Dutt, a Dunzo delivery executive while waiting for orders at Richards Park, Frazer Town. Another executive from Swiggy said that if there is traffic on normal roads, he rides the bike on the footpath which doesn’t have a designated area for e-bikes.

Delivery worker using a Yulu bike in regular traffic.

India’s National Policy on Non-Motorized Transport (NMT) in 2006 promoted the construction of segregated lanes for vehicles moving at different speeds. E-bikes like those of Yulu, move slowly and have a maximum speed of 25 km/h. Such low speed vehicles need cycle lanes as they cannot match the speed of vehicles on normal roads, according to Dathathreya Raju, President of Delivery Boys Welfare Association (DBWA).

Due to low speed of e-bikes and traffic on normal roads, delay in deliveries cause problems for delivery workers said Raju. They have to file a ticket to the company’s call center stating reasons for delay and the employer decides if the reason mentioned on the ticket is valid or not. In most cases, they are considered invalid which could lead to blocking of the worker’s profile from the app, said Raju. He added that delivery companies have started to offer promises for quick deliveries in 15-20 minutes, which pressurizes the delivery executive to reach the destination quicker.

Additionally, lack of cycle lanes for delivery workers could present a risk of accidents, according to Sathya Sankaran, Bengaluru’s Bicycle Mayor. He said   there is no proper way of regulating the power of e-bikes as they do not come under the Motor Vehicle Act. There is no other legal entity that monitors non-motor vehicles (e-bikes) and the weight of the vehicle, which can cause damage to people if there is an accident. Multiple delivery workers have taken to Twitter to report accidents on such vehicles.

The risk to delivery workers is similar to the risk to pedestrians on the street and the law needs to protect the vulnerable, said Sankaran. He added that the cycle lanes project needs to be enforced on the street.

Meanwhile, on the Outer Ring Road, the DULT had planned 34 km of cycle track, out of which nine km has been completed in all respects, said Kulkarni. Most of the rest of it will be constructed along with the metro, work on which has just begun. Additionally, the DULT plans to assist the introduction of cycling infrastructure to other cities of the state including Kalaburgi, Davangere and Mysore, according to Kulkarni.