On World Environment Day 5th June 2022, Mumbai Police organized a cycle ride on the Bandra Worli Sea-Link under its ‘Pedal-Up’ program – part of Sunday Streets campaign.
The Bandra Worli Sea-Link is a 5.6 km long, 8 lane wide bridge that connects Bandra in western suburbs with Worli in South Mumbai.
On a normal day, only cars are allowed to use the bridge after paying a toll fee. So it’s a revenue generation avenue for the government or the private agency who has been handed over the contract to run the show. Hence, cyclists are prohibited to use the bridge.
It was a rare occasion that the authorities granted permission for 2 hours on 5th June, from 7am to 9am for cyclists to use the bridge.
The ride was flagged off from the start of the Bandra toll gate and culminated at Mahalaxmi Racecourse, where the Mumbai Police had organized a small talk on the world environment day.
More than five thousand cyclists took part in this ride of which many of them seemed to be first time riders. Excited and happy, many cyclists stopped on the bridge to take photos and videos and I was one of them. The Sea-Link route is well maintained, pothole free, and has a smooth surface that offers a comfortable ride experience.
But it’s a shame that the bridge is closed for cyclists. I have read in Europe, there are bridges which are specially designed for cyclists and pedestrians – called the cycling highways. One such example is stated by my friend Mark Wagenbuur in his blog ‘Bicycle Dutch’ titled “Europe’s longest cycle bridge opened” which you should read.
A bridge typically serves the purpose of shortening the travel time from point A to point B. It is meant to facilitate lighter and active transport forms such as walking and cycling. But in the case of Bandra Worli Sea-Link, tax payers money is used to construct the bridge and has become a privilege for only the car owners. It is not at all accessible to others which is unfair to citizens who choose to travel on a bicycle.
Two days after I attended the Bandra Worli Sea-Link ride, I fell ill and was detected COVID-19 positive. This is the 2nd time I got COVID-19 virus. Last year in May 2021 it was the Delta variant which led to a week’s hospitalization with several months of recovery time, and this year it was the Omnicron variant for which I had to be quarantined in isolation for 8 days as advised by the doctor.
I was not wearing a mask at the event nor any of the other participants maintained covid protocols. The virus was bound to spread and unfortunately I was one of the victims for which I don’t blame anybody.
The pandemic is still not over and the cases are increasing in Mumbai and other parts of the world. Cycling helps in maintaining social distance and is safer compared to other transport but only to some extent and certainly not in instances like these where the large crowds gather. I learnt a lesson the hard way and had to suffer.
I am feeling better now and more cautious than before.
Let’s wear a mask and follow the COVID-19 guidelines.
Wish you all safe walking and cycling.
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai