Urban Mega Crisis and Alternative Transport

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Urbanisation: the Mega Crisis:-

  • At 300 million, the urban population of India is still less than one third of its total population. It is projected that by 2045 nearly 800 million Indians will be living in its cities – more than the total population of the whole of present-day Europe.
  • With such a pace of urbanisation, it is inevitable that the number of metros and soon-to-be metros is substantially higher than the official tally.
  • Already, the infrastructures of all the six mega- and 40 million-plus cities of India are under very severe stress. The ground water is depleting rapidly, pollution is reaching crisis levels, the transportation system is in disarray, and sewerage and sanitation are in a shambles, all of which is affecting public health and hygiene which are the great concern for developing cities.
  • According to a new study by consultancy EY (India’s growth paradigm, March 2017), India already has two more metros — Jaipur and Surat (apart from 4 Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai) — as well as 10 ‘high potential’ cities which will soon grow to metro-hood: Bhopal, Chandigarh, Indore, Jabalpur, Kanpur, Lucknow, Nagpur, Patna, Vadodara and Visakhapatnam. This mega crisis is leading to the issue of transportation.

Tackling the growing transportation issues:-

  • To solve the growing issues of transportation with curbing pollution and health issues, there is need to shift to an eco-friendly means of transportation such as bicycle, E-Rickshaw, and other no-burning-fuel vehicles.
  • Invented in the 19th Century, Bicycles are an important means of transport in almost all urban areas of the world, with large number of people commuting in a big way.
    Developed countries in Europe have brought back the bicycle as a mode of urban commuting with huge success, while middle-income countries in Latin America are trying to replicate the model.
  • It is time for India to promote bicycle culture as well, so that we burn less fossil fuels, protecting environment while improving our health. Medical experts view cycling as an exercise which, while being less strenuous on the body, is a workout for all the major muscles.

Why Cycling?

  • Urbanization and economic development is increasing the purchasing power of Indian citizens. Although, only 18 out of 1000 are capable of owning a vehicle, India’s roads are already overstressed and emission levels are reaching at alarming point.
  • Air pollution is breaking records in India. Delhi, the capital of India, has earned the reputation of being the most polluted city in whole world.
    Lack of parking space and increasing fuel rates as fossil fuel resources are drying and continuous rise in number of vehicles on road, clearly, the concern here is air pollution, over-crowding and traffic congestion.
  • It cuts traffic trouble and struggle for parking space. A space required to park a car can accommodate 15-20 cycles. There are no fuel expenses, no maintenance cost, no emissions, lesser accident rate, lower road maintenance and many other benefits.
  • Using bicycle cut usage of metal, rubber, steel etc. as less number of vehicles will be manufactured. In every aspect, cycling reduces carbon footprint.

Cycling Culture in World:-

Amsterdam with an urban area population of over 1.1 million people, is the most bicycle-friendly city in the world. As is common in Dutch cities, Amsterdam has a wide net of traffic-calmed streets and world-class facilities for cyclists. All around are bike paths and bike racks, and several guarded bicycle parking stations.

Cycling Culture in India:-

  • Raahgiri-Apni Rahen, Apni Azaadi is India’s first sustained car-free citizen initiative that began in Gurgaon on Nov 17, 2013. The movement was conceived and is trademarked with the Raahgiri Foundation, consisting of local inhabitants from five organizations – EMBARQ India, I Am Gurgaon, Pedalyatri, Heritage School Gurgaon, Duplays Gurgaon. The initiative needs more expansion.
  • There were some attempts like ‘Cycle Chalao’ venture that started in 2010 in Mumbai and operated for sometime before its funds dried up.
    Recently, Delhi Metro launched its first public bicycle sharing scheme for its users to provide last-mile connectivity. The user can either register online or visit a metro station to obtain a smartcard. With this smartcard, user can rent a cycle at rate of Rs.10 per hour.

What India can learn from Bogota?

  • Bogota, Colombia’s capital, started a weekly programme called Ciclovia in 1974.Sections of roads were closed on Sundays for motor vehicles for half a day and only cycles, joggers and walkers were allowed. What started as a small exercise now covers more than 121 km of Bogota’s roads, with the participation of onefourth of its population of eight million, every Sunday and on other holidays, covering around 68 days of the year.
  • Many cities in Colombia and Latin America have adopted Bogota’s Ciclovia. Encouraged by the people’s response to cycling, Bogota has also developed 400 km of cycle routes and is adding another 120 km.
  • Around 7,00,000 trips are made by bicycle every day, constituting 6 per cent of all journeys. Seeing the popularity of Ciclovia, both public and private institutions sponsor events for spreading their particular messages.
  • In India, a start has been made through “Raahgiri” in certain areas of Delhi, Gurgaon, etc, but the initiative has room for expansion. This will require the involvement of the city administration as it needs some management of routes and traffic.
  • Like in Bogota, other public bodies, such as water boards and health departments, will also have to make their services available to ensure drinking water and health facilities in emergencies.
  • Also, we must keep in mind the weather in various Indian cities. In India, cities in the North Indian plains can have more cycle days in winter, while the hills can have more cycle days in summer.
  • Building cycle tracks must be a part of new town planning. The national highways, like in Colombia and several cities of Europe, could also have separate cycle lanes. Cycling culture, which existed in the 1970s and 1980s in India, before the arrival of cars in big numbers, can be revived.
  • This revival will not mean that we do away with motorised transport. We should look forward to a combination, where some journeys will be by public transport, others by car, others still by bicycle. If there is safety in cycling, many will use it as their prime mode of transport.

Conclusion:-

  • It is found in the comparative study of cities that most of the medium and large cities have about 50-75% trips below 5 km trip length. This means there is a considerable number of trips which have the potential to be shifted to the cycle.
  • The conversion of potential cycle trips from other modes is highly likely, if a favourable cycling infrastructure is made available. This requires revising the current design standards to make them bicycle compatible and sustained efforts of capacity building of implementing agencies like municipalities, transport department and public works departments to implement the bicycle friendly infrastructure.
  • The strong initiatives from the government side and active participation from all stakeholders will certainly bring the positive result in the near future to come.