The entire transport system in the country has collapsed due to the fuel crisis and the public are now opting to use bicycles as their reliable mode of transport. As a source of encouragement to cyclists the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) has started a special project within the city limits.

Mayor of Colombo, Rosy Senanayake, said a project has been initiated with the objective of providing a separate lane for cyclists and dedicated places for bicycles to be parked safely for those who come to Colombo for their day-to-day activities.

“Accordingly, bicycle lanes are being initiated from the Armour Street to the Colombo Port entrance. This pilot project is expected to be implemented from Central Colombo to the main entrance gate of the Colombo Port and thus CMC will facilitate and encourage the use of bicycles to the maximum extent possible for the transportation needs of the people living in the city of Colombo,” she said.

Senanayake also said the next phase of this project will be implemented covering the areas of the University of Colombo, Public Library, Town Hall and the Independence Square.

“We expect the continuous support of the public and various organisations for the implementation of these cycle lanes and especially the cooperation and active contribution of the Police Traffic Department as it is very important to provide safety for the cyclists. In parallel with the implementation of bicycle lanes, safe-parking placeswould be made available to bicycles in the city of Colombo,” she added.

Senanayake stated that arrangements have already been made to construct bicycle parking spaces at 25 selected locations in the city, and construction work have been completed at the Bank of Ceylon Street, World Trade Centre, Norris Canal Road, Colombo National Hospital, Dean’s Road in front of Eye Hospital, Port entrance from Pettah, George R. De Silva Mawatha, Kotahena Bus Stand and Majestic City, Bambalapitiya.

In the past, CMC tried to implement similar projects on several occasions. In 2019, CMC and the Netherlands Embassy in Colombo jointly implemented a programme to encourage people to travel to workplaces by bicycle. But it was not so successful. The Dutch Embassy and CMC also launched a programme called ‘CarFreeCMB’ with the idea of reducing air pollution in Colombo. Since the situation now has now turned into a fuel crisis CMC has stepped back on this project for now.

CMC stated that small bicycle lanes had been built in places like Viharamaha Devi Park and Diyatha Uyana, but this was the first time a project of this nature is being implemented.They also said even though there are many walking lanes throughout the city of Colombo, very few lanes have been reserved for bicycles.

A senior official of the CMC said they would be closely monitoring and reviewing the progress of this pilot project and hope to implement it in several stages in the future.

“Colombo is a city with heavy traffic. A large number of vehicles arrive in Colombo every day. Initially, we implemented it about two years ago to reduce traffic congestion. But today we are implementing this as a solution to the ongoing fuel crisis. We were looking for a suitable way to carry out this endeavour. Our aim is to reach most of our service stations. Because there are places to park bicycles, people can park their bicycles safely,” he stated.

He said as a city that is developing very fast, it is very important to implement such projects like in most advanced countries such as the UK, Netherlands and Denmark, especially in the backdrop of a crisis.

BY Sahan Tennekoon