Vrindavan, 2017.10.04 (VT): About nine months ago, the MVDA created several biking trails around the city. Unfortunately, these biking trails are not being used for biking, nor is anyone walking on the footpaths. However, these public conveniences are being utilized in other creative ways by the community – though not in ways the City intended.
The Median in Chaitanya Vihar Phase 1
For example, the biking trail in Chaitanya Vihar Phase 1’s “sau footer road” is being used as a makeshift camp for nomads and a sleeping area for homeless people. It also doubles as a beauty salon, e-rickshaw parking lot and a snack shop.
The authorities did a wonderful job constructing the median which the bike path runs through, incuding a good amount of tree cover and greenery; a veritable minature park. But keeping the place tidy and safe is another story.
Not so long ago, squatters had pitched jhopris (rough tents) in the median, which were later cleared away to make the bike path. However, a large number of people are still living in the median.
Local resident Ratnavali Devi says, “Yes, they took down the jhopris when they built the path, but you still wouldn’t want to go in there now, because there are vagabonds sitting around there. The only good bike path in Vrindavan is in Rukmini Vihar, because not many people live there yet.”
The Chhatikara Road Bike Path
On the Chhatikara road there is another bike path, which unfortunately is not clearly labeled: in some areas it appears to be on the shoulder of the road, while in other places it is clearly up on the sidewalk.
Trees and bushes grow up out of the center of the path, which is good and appropriate for Vrindavan. However, as Ratnavali Devi says, “You could tell from beginning it was not made to last, because there was no gap left for the trees to expand, so the trees will break the path within a few years.”
Tea stalls are using the Chattikara Road bike path as a seating area for their customers, and cars use it as a parking space; both the portion on the shoulder of the road and up on the sidewalk. They might as well; the path is so far away from most people’s homes, nobody bothers to bike there anyway.
Ms. Kirti Tyagi tells of her recent experience trying to use the Chhatikara Road bike path to dodge a traffic jam:
“Last Sunday night a friend and I were coming back from Radhakund in a rush, because we wanted to have darshan of shayan aarti at the Radharaman Temple. Unfortunately we hit a huge traffic jam near Vaishno Devi. This led to what I would call a whole new experience in my life.
“We were determined to cross the jam as fast as possible, so we took the shelter of the bicycle bath like any normal person who has the luxury of a motorbike. But to our dismay, we soon realized this bike path was more like a jungle.
“We encountered big piles of earth which took superhuman strength of me pushing the scooty, and my friend’s mad driving skills to drive over the bumps. Not to mention the thorny bushes and construction materials randomly littering the path. Then there were the groups of people using the path as a space to hang out and chitchat. And the best part – some people had decided to park their cars on the sidewalk! At one point my friend literally had to jump the scooty off a high curb to come back onto the main road. It felt like a stunt straight out of a Bollywood film.”
The vice president of the MVDA Ms. Yashu Rastogi says that the encroachments will soon be removed. However, it appears that keeping these areas safe and clean will require far more effort than a single day’s cleanup. Hopefully the MVDA will be up to the task amidst the host of development issues facing the town.