Uttar Pradesh now has Asia's first cycle highway. A first-of-its-kind project, the 207-km-long cycle highway runs between Etawah and Agra and was declared open on Saturday. A rally of 90 cyclists from five countries and across India followed the inauguration ceremony at the Lion Safari in Etawah. Constructed by the UP public works department, the cycle highway runs parallel to the main highway and is about 7-feet-wide. A divider in between ensures the safety of cyclists. Along the way from Etawah to Agra, it dots 92 villages.
"The track begins from the lion safari in Etawah. On its way to Agra are tourist destinations like Naugava ka Quila, Raja Bhoj ki Haveli, and Bateshwarnath Temple. It ends at the eastern gate of the Taj Mahal in Agra," said Lion Safari director, Sanjay Srivastava. While the cyclists rode about 50 km on Saturday, from Etawah to Jarar, UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav—who conceived the project following his experiences in cities like Amsterdam, Berlin and Paris, where cycles are used extensively in city commute—will welcome the cyclists in Agra on Sunday.
The track criss-crosses the natural beauty of the Chambal and Yamuna rivers. Views of ravines along the way will give tourists an opportunity to enjoy the serenity of the region. "Local people can use it for daily commute as the tracks covers a distance of 207 km, dotting 92 villages across the two districts," said Srivastava. Inaugurating the highway, state minister Abhishek Mishra said, "It is a historical moment as a world-class cycling infrastructure is being made operational not only for locals but to the people of the state and the nation."
The cycle tracks will not only give a boost to tourism, but also help in sustaining the environment, he added. "Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav wanted to transform the region as an ecologically conscious tourist destination, and the dedicated cycle tracks are a significant step towards promoting green and environment friendly commuting," said Mishra.
For the past 15 years, Swedish nationals Sanna (30) and Stephen (45) have been using the cycle as their mode of transportation."I am excited to be here. Going by the infrastructure, the cycle track is of international standard. I am a tad nervous as the cycle track in our country is on the right side of the road and here it is on the left side," said Sanna, who was among the cyclists who rode from Etawah on Saturday.
Raqeebul Islam from Bangladesh, another participant, said, "I would like to appeal to the people, particularly the elderly, to take up cycling again for a healthy and fit tomorrow." Raqeebul further said that peddaling would enhance road sense among the youth and increase their tolerance level as drivers. He also offered local cyclists a few tips on the cause of the environment.