THE SUNDAY STORY Absence of safe cycle tracks and lack of pavement networks have pushed people to motorised transport

Across the world, in the wake of the fuel crisis and environmental challenges, cities are increasingly paying attention to bicycling and walking — non-motorised modes of transport (NMT). As studies show, if 5 per cent of the trips made in cities across the world shift from car to NMT, the savings in terms of fuel cost would be $25 billion per year. This shift would also cut 100 million tonnes of CO emission (UNEP, 2010).

Despite the benefits that NMT offers, Indian cities and policy makers have not substantially invested in it. The share of bicycles in city trips has reduced from 33 per cent in 1994 to 11 percent in 2007. The walkability index for Indian cities, a parameter that measures the availability of pavements and facilities, is as low as 0.5 (an index value of 1 indicates a good network). In comparison, cities such as London have a high index value of 1.7 (MoUD, 2008)

As early as 1998, attempts were made to improve the situation. IIT Delhi prepared a bicycle master plan for the city to ‘get at least 30 per cent more kilometres by bicycles by 2010.’ Despite spending about Rs. 50 lakh on preparing the plan, the government never implemented it. The tenth five-year plan that followed in 2002 and the National Urban Transport Policy drafted in 2006 also emphasised equitable allocation of road space, cleaner technologies, and reducing fuel consumption. But these have not yet translated into clear plans.

Despite poor road conditions, there are substantial numbers of NMT users. About 45 per cent of the 246 million households own bicycles and 28 per cent of the trips in major cities are made by walk. The government has failed to take advantage of this large bicycle user base. Plans and investments continue to privilege private cars. Absence of safe cycle tracks and lack of pavement networks have pushed people to motorised transport for even short trips, that is, less than 3 km.

To correct this, the Working Group on Urban Transport for the Twelfth Five-Year Plan (2012-17) has recommended that all State capitals and cities with over 2 lakh population should have facilities for pedestrians and bicycle-users.

It has also suggested that the State governments create an NMT cell in each municipal corporation. So far, there are no signs of implementation.

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