Kathmandu Metropolitan City announces subsidies for staff to buy bicyclesCycling enthusiasts, however, say the decision makes little sense when the mayor hasn’t built a single cycle-friendly lane in the city in his three years in office.
Kathmandu Metropolitan City has announced that it will provide subsidies to staffers to buy bicycles.
But cycling enthusiasts have criticised the city’s announcement saying that the decision makes no sense as Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya, who has been in office for the past three years, hasn’t commissioned a single cycling lane in the city.
“The decision is very comical. The mayor didn’t make a single cycle lane in his three years in power,” said Ratna Shrestha, founder president of the Nepal Cycle Society. “Now those representatives and staffers who have the privilege to use office vehicles are offered subsidies to buy bicycles. I doubt they will make use of the facility,” added Shrestha.
Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya in his policy speech for the new fiscal year, on Thursday, announced subsidies to staffers and elected ward representatives who want to buy bicycles, citing the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to observe social distancing.
When Shakya was elected in 2017, he had vowed to make Kathmanndu a ‘clean and livable city’. One of his 101 tasks to be completed in 101 days, was to designate ‘cycle lanes. But even after taking up the job for three years, he hasn’t built a single cycle lane in the city.
“During the mayor’s first year in office, he had vowed to convert Bagmati corridor from Pasupati to Teku, into a dedicated cycle lane, no one knows what’s happening there,” said Shrestha.
After Lalitpur Metropolitan City’s mayor Chiri Babu Maharjan inaugurated a 3.1 km cycle lane in Lalitpur in December last year, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City also announced to restore the cycle lanes from Maitighar to New Baneshwor, but that didn’t happen.
“Giving subsidies to buy bicycles is good, but will the city staffers really use them?” questions another cyclist Diwas Pradhan from Bhaisapati. “The mayor should have rather announced the development of cycle-friendly infrastructure in the city,” said Pradhan “ guess, if the city’s staffers do buy cycles, their children will play with them.”
Saroj Basnet, vice-chairperson at the city’s Urban Planning Commission said that the city was yet to decide on how the subsidies will be rolled out. “We are yet to decide the budget for such subsidies,” said Basnet. “There are over 1,800 staffs working for the city, so we are still planning to ease their access to cycles based on their interest and demand,” said Basnet.
Asked how reasonable it was to roll out a scheme for staffers to encourage them to buy cycles at a time when the roads are not cycle-friendly, Basnet said, “Your question is like whether chicken came first or the egg, we are working on making cycle lanes in the city, and more can be done when more people ride bicycles,” said Basnet.