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Cycling In India: Is It Worth The Risk?

In the five years between 2011 and 2015, about 25,435 cyclists have been killed in India. Despite all the positive things about cycling, it has today become one of the most dangerous vehicles in India and has put its riders to great risk

Written By: Anisha Bhatia | Edited By: Sonia Bhaskar | December 11, 2017 1:12 PM | Features

Cycling In India: Is It Worth The Risk?

It may be the most eco-friendly mode of transportation that can help ease the choking of our cities. It may also be a viable solution to free up our roads from the burgeoning number of vehicles. It may be a great cost-effective alternative to tackle the bloating fuel costs and it may also be a good way to replace a sedentary lifestyle with a more healthy one. But despite all its positives, the humble bicycle invented 200 years ago, has today become one of the most dangerous vehicles, putting its riders to great risk.

On India’s roads 16 fatalities take place every hour and cyclists are among those most vulnerable among the roads users apart from 2-wheeler riders and pedestrians. According to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways Data, 2015 report, states the Vulnerable Road Users make up for 46.3 per cent of the total fatalities. Yet another report, the Analysis of Global Road Safety 2015 done by SaveLIFE Foundation, found that road traffic deaths among pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists comprise almost half of all the deaths on roads across the world.

Also Read: How Dangerous Are India’s Roads?

The Number Game

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According to the report by Transport Research Wing (TRW) of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in the five years between 2011 and 2015, 25,435 cyclists have been killed.

So why is this effective mode of transportation that has been on the roads for two centuries, becoming a dangerous ride?

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Problems For Cyclists In India

1. No Continuous Cycle Tracks: First and foremost, India lacks cycle tracks. Currently there are very few cycle tracks in India and even if there are, they are not continuous. The cycle paths are there on some stretches of the road but the condition of the tracks are so bad that the cyclist will end up using the roads, along with motorised vehicles.

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Preeti Chaudhary, who is the first cyclist from Delhi-NCR to attain the title of ‘Super Randonneur’ says, The roads are not cycling friendly in India. I have never done a ride alone in India so far as I don’t feel safe on Indian roads. Cycling tracks in Delhi/NCR don’t exist in such a manner that you can train on them. Secondly, people throw a lot of garbage and broken glasses which leads to punctures and frequent imbalance of cyclists. I have only used the cycling track from Akshardham flyover until Mayur Vihar (in East Delhi) but most of the times I prefer cycling on roads only as the lane conditions are bad.

2. Poor Design Of Cycle Tracks: A good cycle track should have a proper marking in place which highlights the fact that the lane is only for the cyclists. Secondly, there should be a system in place which enforces that the lane should only be used by the cycle commuters and not by the other mode of transports or hawkers! Last but not the least, cycle tracks should be properly lit. Sadly, in India, none of the above mentioned criteria are up to the mark, as a result posing risk to the cyclists’ life.

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Riding a cycle in India is not only difficult but unsafe! Riding in other countries is way safer as they have proper cycle tracks everywhere, says Deepender Sehajpal who is the first one from Delhi NCR to finish the coveted Paris Brest Paris cycling event in 2015.

3. Lack Of Road Sense Among People: There is little doubt that people in India lack road sense and defy basic traffic rules – they jump signals, over speed, switch lanes or drive on the wrong side.

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The SafeLIFE Foundation analysis report on road safety states that vulnerability of road users increases at increasing speed – an adult pedestrian has less than a 20% chance of dying if struck by a car at less than 50 km/h but almost a 60% risk of dying if hit at 80 km/h.

Cyclists in India are bullied badly by all the other mode of commuters. In India, everyone is in the hurry as a result they don’t think of cyclists at all. What I like most about other countries is that road commuters always have a safe distance (about 2-4 feet) from the cyclists. Whereas in India, we as cyclists don’t even get to know who is coming towards us from which direction. They are all over us, added Deepender Sehajpal.

Preeti Chaudhary said, “It’s high time cyclists should be given their due respect as a means of transport.”

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SafeLIFE Foundation report also states that successful speed management is crucial for ensuring road safety. Where motorised traffic mixes with pedestrians, cyclists, and moped riders, the speed limit should be under 30 km/h.

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In India, the local authority has the power to reduce the national speed limits, but the national urban speed limit is not 50km/h for all urban, rural and motor way roads. India does not have good speed limit law in place, as it does not meet the first aspect of the best practice on urban speed management. The need of the hour is that India should have stricter laws about road safety and people should abide by the rules and regulations whether a policeman is there or not on the road.

Also Read: Over 1.3 Million Road Accident Deaths In A Decade: India’s Killer Roads

What Experts Have To Say?

Kanika Kalra, an urban transport expert with the Indian Institute of Urban Transport (IUT), says, in India, traffic is growing drastically, everyone is in a hurry, and due to lack of road infrastructure for cyclists they end up battling for their life every day.

She also added that a cyclist is more vulnerable to road deaths compared to any other mode of transport. When a car is hit by something, a person does not get hit directly but a cyclist does, that’s why cycling in India is considered unsafe.

Highlighting the problem of poor road designs in India, Kanika Kalra goes on to add, Cycle tracks should be on the roads itself and not on an extreme side, beneath the trees. When people will feel unsafe to use it, they will never ever make use of it. Currently whatever cycle tracks there are in India, they are just not solving the purpose. The tracks mostly are being used by motor cyclists and other non-motorised vehicles.

Currently the government has made it compulsory that the new roads that are being constructed and that are being funded by the government will have mandatory cycle tracks.

When asked about the timelines, Kanika Kalra added, initially India didn’t even had cycle policy, guidelines in place. Today at least we have the policy and the guidelines document sorted, all we need is to get the plan of action kick-started. It will be a slow process, but it will happen sometime soon.

Also Read: Wearing Helmets – A Choice Between Life And Death

Saji Cherian, Director of Operations, SaveLIFE Foundation says, “Segregation of traffic is essential to reduce road user conflict and protect vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists who form the bulk of urban road users in India. States must ensure that non-motorised transport road users are prioritised in street design rather than motorised road users. The Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill 2016 proposes to empower the State Governments to do so by amending Section 138, as non-motorised transport is a State Subject under the Constitution of India.”

Also Read: 10 Things To Know About The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2016


The absence of laws protecting vulnerable road users in India is not helping matters. A trend report shows that many people take up cycling as a hobby, but quickly discontinue the same as they feel demotivated after jostling for a secure space on the roads with buses/trucks and other vehicles.


  1. Rohan Kini

    Are you recommending everyone now drives a car vs trying to see how we can promote riding a bicycle?
    Lack of infrastructure, road sense and lack of respect makes Indian roads dangerous but its something all of us grow up learning how to navigate.

    Most folks on bicycles ride at much lower speeds and cycling ends up being a lot safer vis-a-vis faster modes of transport like motorbikes. Cars and bigger modes of transport are obviously safer, but that’s not a solution! Neither is avoiding walking or riding a bicycle IMO.

    – How much safer is it to walk or ride a two wheeler vis-a-via a bicycle? Can you share these numbers too please?
    – are the numbers of bicyclists being killed on the rise? Are these urban deaths or on the highways?
    – roads being unsafe for people especially women, garbage on roads inconveniencing people, poorly designed infrastructure, badly lit roads, lack of road sense, lack of respect on roads, etc are all problems. Not sure how its relevant to stating that cycling is unsafe

    Come on guys – Would have been great if a reputable channel like NDTV could focus on fixing/highlighting issues vs putting out a moot point that cycling is unsafe!

    • amit

      hi bro..I think it was the honest assessment by NDTV. I am being Delhites feel that delhi is not good for cycling because of rash traffic. Aanother important reason is the pollution level. You can check the pollution level anywhere in delhi and it is many times above the safe pollution level. And ofcourse Bicycle does not harm any one but it can be harmed even by a scottey. And in delhi we do not have culture to help the victim. Reality Check.

  2. Arnab

    To the writers, how can you say that the bicycle is dangerous? Bicycle is not causing harm to anyone. It is the men and women who drive other forms of transport are making roads dangerous for bicycle riders and pedestrians too. Why don’t you write an article on how large vehicles bring the demon out of normal human beings and they start to bully others.

    • amit

      hi bro..I think it was the honest opinion. I am being Delhites feel that delhi is not good for cycling for rash traffic and another important reason is the pollution level. You can check the pollution level anywhere in delhi and it is many times above the safe pollution level. And ofcourse Bicycle does not harm any one but it can be harmed even by a scottey. And in delhi we do not have culture to help the victim. Reality Check.

  3. Rohan

    First of all, not all of the cycling accidents are caused due to poor road and traffic conditions, many of them are also caused due to the bad traffic sense of the cycle riders themselves. Most of the cycle riders are usually poor people who have never ridden a motorized vehicle themself and are more used to riding around in desolate, village narrow roads, not on the busy and wide freeways of the city. So, they never get to learn the traffic sense required to drive carefully in city roads, something that every motorist is aware of to a good degree for his own safety. Almost all of the cyclists (and I am talking about the poor ones who use the regular Indian brands like Hero and Avon for their regular conveyance sake) never use a bike light or even reflectors while riding in the night, and completely disregard the fact that they are a much slower vehicle on the road as compared to the others. As a result they are the cause for most of the accidents. Even a motorist would have met with a similar fate if he didn’t use any rear or front lights or disregarded the principles of maintaining a constant and proper speed on the roads.

    Secondly, I completely disagree with the ridiculous speed limits – 30kmph and 50 kmph that vehicles should maintain on the road as mentioned in the article. I myself ride a bike as well as a cycle, and ride them at their optimum speed levels. There’s no way that I would ride my bike at 30kmph or even 50kmph if I can ride it faster. Even a cycle ridden fast can go above 30kmph!

    So, this article should take into account the actual situation with cyclists and the road traffic conditions rather than make only one or a few means of transport the scape goat for all the misdemeanours that happen on the roads!


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