KATHMANDU, JAN 27 –
With fuel prices rocketing, bicycle has become an attractive means of transport, from both economic and health points of view. However, given the lack of bicycle lanes in the city, except along the Gaushala-Tinkune road, the cheapest means of transport has not been able to attract motorists and motorcyclists.
According to a conservative estimate, if every motor vehicle user turns to cycling one day every week, about 250,000 litres of fuel can be saved—a whopping 1,000,000
litres spared every month. This saving not only reduces household or individual expenses, but improves the country’s overall balance of payments.
A recent report of the Nepal Oil Corporation shows that the country is being more and more dependent on imported petroleum products for its energy requirements. The national demand for petroleum products is about 1.2 million tons per year, with a 20 percent year-on-year increase, according to Mukunda Dhungel, spokesman for the nation’s oil monopoly. “Besides saving fuel, bicycle strains body tissues and cells, making the rider healthier,” says world cyclist Pushkar Shah. “Cycling activates dopamine in the brain that causes happiness of the human. This finally elongates a person’s life. Besides, cycling keeps the environment clean.” Rabin Man Shrestha of the KMC’s Environment Management Division says Kathmandu has few bicycle lanes. He shared the Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s intention of developing Baneshwor and Bishnumati link roads into cycle-friendly stretches. He added that the metropolis has plans to build bicycle lanes along some other roads too.
In using petroleum products, it is not only the high prices that matter. Pollution is an undeniable worry. “Kathmandu is one of the most polluted cities in the world. Every year, 1,400 premature deaths are caused by air pollution here,” says environmentalist Bhusan Tuladhar.
Getting rid of air pollution is a Herculean task for environmentalists and the government. Street-level air pollution is severe in the Capital. In many parts of the city, the total suspended particulate concentrations are reported to exceed the WHO standards and are comparable with the situation in Mexico City, according to a case study undertaken by Ram M Shrestha and Sunil Malla of the Asian Institute of Technology.
The question may be what should be done to cure this ill. A ready answer is cycling. This low-cost means of transport suits the economic condition of a majority of Nepalis. Cycling between places in the Valley is feasible as the average daily travelling distance for most city folk is not too long.
Sharmila Manandhar, owner of a bicycle shop, says bicycle sales have gone up recently. “People come to my shop saying that their doctor has advised them to ride a bicycle,” Manandhar said.
published in The Kathmandu Post