For the moment, Lucknow seems to be the main beneficiary of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s love affair with the bicycle. The state capital is expected to get 270 km of dedicated cycle tracks – the country’s largest network – by the end of this year.

The government plans to demarcate similar tracks in almost all of the state’s big cities, including Noida and Greater Noida. Last year, Yadav travelled to France, Germany and the Netherlands – which has more bicycles than residents – to take tips on making cycling a viable proposition for commuters.

According to 2015 data, Lucknow has 17 lakh registered vehicles. This increases by 10% every year. The official explanation for the promotion of cycling is that Yadav hopes that it will encourage people to lead healthier lives in a city that will soon rival Delhi in terms of air pollution. But the elections due in 2017 may also be a factor. Ahead of the 2012 polls in the state, Yadav, then in the Opposition, had gone on a 250-km cycle yatra. The cycle, after all, is the symbol of his Samajwadi Party.

In Lucknow, 35 km of cycle tracks have been constructed. They have mainly been demarcated in the city’s VIP areas: in Kalidas Marg, where the chief minister resides, and in Vikramaditya Marg – home to the office of the Samajwadi Party, its chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and cabinet ministers like Azam Khan. Another stretch on the road next to governor Ram Naik’s bungalow is also complete.

But not everyone is as enthused as the chief minister, and the deserted cycle tracks speak for themselves. “Akhilesh has been pedaling hard for a while now, however the enthusiasm is limited to the CM himself and a few party workers,” said veteran journalist and political analyst Pradeep Kapoor. “Other high-profile cabinet ministers feel more comfortable in their luxury cars. Except for Akhilesh, I am yet to witness a minister using the cycle tracks.”

Yadav’s political rival and former UP chief minister Mayawati has ridiculed his efforts. "Akhilesh has nothing to do. If he does not ride a cycle, what else will he do," she is reported to have asked last year.

But even if cycles are hard to spot on Lucknow’s cycle tracks, Yadav is making sure that no one will miss a 59-foot-tall sculpture of a bicycle that the government is planning to install in the sprawling Janeshwar Mishra Park.

Mayawati had several massive figures of her election symbol, the elephant, erected in parks in Lucknow and Noida during her stint as chief minister. With the polls just a year away, perhaps residents of UP should expect to see many more larger-than-life cycles.