Cycling: An Efficient Solution to Rising Transportation Problems in Kathmandu
Cycling: An Efficient Solution to Rising Transportation Problems in Kathmandu
Journal of the Korean Society of Surveying, Geodesy, Photogrammetry and Cartography. 2014. Dec, 32(6): 617-623
Copyright © 2014, Korean Society of Surveying, Geodesy, Photogrammetry and Cartography
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
  • Received : November 30, 2014
  • Accepted : December 21, 2014
  • Published : December 31, 2014
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About the Authors
In Tae, Yang
Member, Dept. of Civil Engineering, Kangwon National Univ., Korea (
Tri Dev, Acharya
Corresponding Author, Member, Dept. of Civil Engineering, Kangwon National Univ., Korea (
Moon Seung, Shin
Member, Dept. of Civil Engineering, Kangwon National Univ., Korea (

The rapid urbanization in developing countries has caused trasportation problems that need to be solved. For that reason, the study evaluates the potential of cycling in the densely populated part of Kathmandu valley. Slopes and existing roads have been applied as the input cost rasters for finding the shortest cost routes between stations. By taking the average cycling velocity, time to travel from station to destination were compared with the average commuting time in the public transportation. The result comes out as similar time with the public transportation. Although the cycling seems potential replacement for public transportation commuters, in fact, there are some setbacks needed to be supported by the government to make it reality in future.
1. Introduction
Urbanization has been processed rapidly in most of developing countries. It has been observed in Nepal from the 1970s onward, showing one of the highest rates in Asia and the Pacific ( ADB/ICIMOD, 2006 ). Since the population in Kathmandu valley is growing by 4 percents per year with a population of 2.5 million people, it becomes the most populated city in country, as well as one of the fastest growing metropolitan in South Asia ( Muzzini and Aparicio, 2013 ). Kathmandu valley is nearly round shape with diameters of about 30 km east–west and 25 km north–south. It consists of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur districts. The reason for rapid and unplanned mushrooming of the city is due to several factors, such as Maoist insurgency and Tarai insecurity, lack of rural educational and health facilities, educational and employment opportunities in the capital. It is the first region in Nepal to face the unprecedented challenges of rapid urbanization and modernization at a metropolitan scale ( Muzzini and Aparicio, 2013 ).
Among many, one of the emerging challenges is transportation development inside the valley. Kathmandu has not yet seen the modern bulk carrier transportation, such as railways. Hence, roads are the only way to travel, which in fact are inadequate and poorly managed. Buses, minibuses, vans, pickups, trucks, cars, tempo (three wheelers) and motorcycles are the modes of transportation for services and daily commuting in the city.
According to Department of Transport Management report, over the past 10 years motorization has increased by 12% per year ( Fig. 1 ) ( DoTM, 2013 ), while the modal share of public transport has remained stagnant ( Fig. 2 ). With increasing population and number of people owning private vehicles, the roads becomes narrower, and more time takes to commute. In fact, frequent traffic congestion, fumes and excessive noise are shown possible consecutive problems. It is challenging to finding a way into public buses, microbuses, tempos and taxis, without mentioning the actual overcrowded and uncomfortable journey. The proposed solution from the government to accommodate these challenges faces an uncertain fate due to land acquisition disputes and higher compensation demanded by locals for their property.
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Vehicle registration in Bagmati zone (DoTM, 2013)
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Travel mode share in 1991 and 2010 (CEN/UNHabitat, 2014)
On the other hand, since the most of running vehicles are fossil fueled, the price of fossil fuel is increasing sharply; however, the supply is limited. Long waiting lines are common during crisis periods. In addition, greenhouse gas and pollutants, emitted from these large numbers of vehicles, have vastly contributed to the air pollution. During the long traffic jams, peoples are susceptible to air pollution, which may consequently degrade their health. Therefore, the reduction of fossil fueled vehicles is a necessity, particularly, for a crowded city, like Kathmandu. By taking these facts into consideration including Kathmandu’s geography, up surging oil price and deteriorating environment, the cycling might be the best alternative for the existing transportation related problems.
Compared to other modes of transports, the cycling has many advantages ( Fig. 3 ); it neither depends on the age nor the income; it is healthy, cheap, environmentally friendly and quiet, and also takes a little space ( SFMTA, 2013 ; Transport Learning, 2013 ). In addition, the cycling as a mode of urban transportation results in health benefits, environmental benefits and economic benefits ( Castillo-Manzano and Sánchez-Braza, 2013 ; Daley and Rissel, 2011 ; Florida, 2011 ; Rabl and De Nazelle, 2012 ; Woodcock ., 2009 ). According to the research in New Zeland ( Macmillan ., 2014 ), System dynamic modeling shows transforming urban roads using best practice of physical separation on main roads and bicycle-friendly speed reduction on local streets would yield benefits 10-25 times greater than costs, over next 40 years ( Macmillan ., 2014 ).
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Cycle costs and benefits compared to other modes of transports (SFMTA, 2013)
The purpose of study is to evaluate the potential of cycling as an alternative mode of transportation based on time to travel within the existing road infrastructure inside Ring road, Kathmandu.
2. Area of Study and Data
The area of study is located inside the Ring road, which is four lane ring around Kathmandu ( Fig. 4 ). Its total length is 27 km and approximately 4.5 km radius considering Ratnapark as the center. Most of the population and services are located within or the proximity of the Ring road. It has been planned to expand into the eight-lane highway with bicycle lane around it.
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Study area
The following data has been used for this study:
  • 1) Slope: Topographic maps provided by the Department of Survey, Government of Nepal was used to prepare the percentage slope map (Fig. 5) of the study area with 10 × 10 m pixel size.
  • 2) Road Network: Due to the lack of topologically correct or updated road network, the Open Street Map (OSM) (Fig. 6) was used. The data is only polylines and does not follow the spatial network rules.
  • 3) Stations: Seven densely populated built-up areas around the Ring Road were selected. These stations were selected by approximate equally divided perimeters. They are Balaju, NarayanGopal chowk, Chabahik, Koteshwor (Tinkune), Lagankhel (Mahalakshmi), Balkhu and Sitapila. Open space near Ratnapark was considered as the central destination.
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Percentage slopemap
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OSM road network, ring road
3. Methodology
In this study, raster based GIS technique, was used to find the least cost path based on the slope and available road network by comparing time to travel. A general workflow is shown in Fig. 7 .
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Workflow of the study
In this study, the slope is considered as the most important factor for cycling. The bicycle lane needs to be designed around 2% but no more than 5%, the percentage slope map derived from topographic maps, is divided into three categories: >5%, 2-5% and 0-2% in the order of least favorable ( Table 1 ). Being the valley, it’s obvious to have the central plane areas whereas the peripherals shows the high slope.
Rank and weightage of different parameters for cycling path
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Rank and weightage of different parameters for cycling path
The importance of land is very high in Kathmandu, so the new lane construction or expansion is very difficult here. By considering the situation, we have applied existing roads as input. The OSM road networks were firstly got rid of the Bridleway, Service roads, Steps raceway and railway, which are inappropriate for cycling. Then the rest class of road network is divided into three categories ( Table 1 ).
In order to determine the routes, the study considers the Ratnapark as a central destination of purely slope, slope & road, and weighted Slope & road scenarios. The first slope based route is determined purely by the existing topography to know a path with the least slopes. The second condition follows the same rules but only through the existing roads, which expects to be longer length. In fact, the cycling in busy primary and secondary roads is not safer by accounting of accidents and air pollutants and spending time in traffic signals. Therefore, in third condition, the roads are given 30% weightage as well as the priority to inner residential and tertiary roads. This could save time and give smooth ride experience.
The methodology comes out with three different cycling cost scenarios by overlaying the thematic maps, weighted overlay methods using the spatial analysis tool in ArcGIS 9.2. During the weighted overlay analysis, the ranking has been given for each individual parameter of each thematic map, so as the weightage was assigned according to the influence of different parameters that presents in Table 1 . The rank determines the ease to difficult states of cycling condition 1 to 3, respectively.
The Cost Distance tool was used to calculate the least accumulative cost distance from each cell to the nearest over each cost surfaces. Finally the least cost path tool was used to calculate the least cost paths from different stations to a destination.
4. Results and Discussion
In this study, the result ( Fig. 8 ) shows that the most of route length differences by purely slope costs are within a kilometer, except Narayangopal Chowk ( Table 2 ). Addionally, those differences in route lengths between SlopeRoad and WSlopeRoad are much similar and shorter, except for Narayangopal Chowk again. The reason for a huge difference in Narayangopal Chowk routes was due to the high sloped roads between connecting stations and the presence of continuous housing and restricting areas, such as embassies, government offices etc. are around.
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Cycling routes
Difference in length and time to travel at 10 and 15 km/hr
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Difference in length and time to travel at 10 and 15 km/hr
According to the new World Bank(2013) report, Gender and Public Transport in Nepal , the most people stated that their journey times were between 15 and 30 minutes, and 90% of journeys took less than an hour. For cycling time computation, average urban bike travel velocities considered were 10km/hr & 15km/hr ( Jensen ., 2010 ). It indicates that the time to travel varied from 13 to 43 minutes( Table 2 ).
However, it does not include the time required for the walk to and from station, waiting for public transportation, or the time consuming to find a parking spot for private vehicles. Hence, considering the simple one direction distance and lesser time to commute in Kathmandu, favors the cycling.
Furthermore, if banks of river networks are started to use for cycling, it can serve the dual purposes in transportation and recreation ( Fig. 9 ).
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Optimum cycling route with river network
Also if, the destination in Ringroad was merged with river crossings, it can minimize construction cost.
Unfortunately, there is neither the high resolution DEM nor the road network database for precise calculation of cycling routes. In websites of MapMyRide and EveryTrail, we could observe few cycling activities were done in the valley, only for the recreation purpose. This study might be the first to consider the cycling as the daily commuting transportation for the city. From related data, the cycling routes can be more optimized for two-way cycling based on slope and aspect, human power cost etc.
Although this study shows promising cycling scopes, there are some profound risks following to bad states of roads and unsecured driving culture, as well as polluted atmosphere, since Kathmandu valley had the highest level of air pollution in Nepal ( Shrestha ., 2012 ). For those reasons, the roads still seem difficult and dangerous for cycling without supports and committed actions from the authorities to reorganize and clean up the urban roads.
5. Conclusion and Recommendation
The rapid urbanization in Kathmandu recently has only magnified the existing problems in the transportation, rendering enormous challenges that need to be dealt with.
This study shows that it would take almost same time to cycle as to take the public transportation from the vicinities of Ring road. Thus, the cycling can be an effective alternative transportation for densely populated parts of Kathmandu valley. Besides the health and environmental benefits, adopting cycling will provide economical and independent travel to the daily commuters.
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