With the Covid-19 pandemic easing its grip over the world, businesses have started working like usual. As employees increasingly start returning to the office from the locked-down lifestyle, the roads have started witnessing beelines of vehicles, emitting tonnes of carbon and harmful gases increasingly.
The air pollution levels in India have worsened year after year with instances wherein the national capital Delhi gets smog-gutted every year. Just ahead of the pandemic, Lancet reported, India’s polluted air was linked to 1.67 mn deaths in 2019. With so much adversity due to rising vehicular pollution, India is looking at ways to alleviate its effects by switching to alternative means of transportation.
Traditional civic transportation on a revamp mode
Given that a majority of Indians to date rely heavily on public transport, the Indian governments, both central and state, have taken several initiatives to curb the sources of air-polluting vehicles. In 2001, seeing the heightened risk of particulate matter formation due to diesel-run civic transport vehicles, the Centre directed states to switch to CNG-run rickshaws and buses. Not stopping at it, green mobility has quickly picked pace among conscious citizens which has led to a demand for electric vehicles. To increase the awareness and demand for electric vehicles for both domestic and commercial use, various states have been offering subsidy policies to buyers.
Public transport to date holds great reliability by the masses given its many benefits like cost-effectiveness, reduced fuel consumption per capita, and hence lesser pollution ensuring better air quality. The state governments and civic bodies in metro cities have been working to search for alternatives to embark on their vision to transform transportation as emissions-free.
In line of the same, various state governments have started engaging in new-age civic transport vehicles for ease of accessibility along with zero-emission vision. Mumbai is currently undergoing a major transformation in connecting the overall cities through the Metro rail. Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) also has been increasing its fleet of electric buses and aims to convert 50% of its fleet to electric by end of 2023. Similarly, Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) aims to lease 921 electric buses. Many other Indian cities have started working towards converting their bus fleet to electric
E-rickshaws are being put into use in various regions across India and more brands are looking at partnering with state governments. The transition to e-rickshaws across the country from the currently CNG-powered rickshaws doesn’t look like a distant dream now.
However, even with electric buses and rickshaws, the problem of first and last-mile connectivity remains unanswered. And this is where shared active mobility can play an important and impactful role.
Active transportation: Killing two birds with one stone
What remains the most reliable transportation means that will not only aid seamless public transportation but also promote overall well-being for Indians? Public bicycle sharing (PBS) program is the answer.
As nearly 50% of transportation needs in India are for under 5 kilometers on average, vouching for cost-effective cycle-sharing programs not only ensures sustainability but also safeguards well-being. A PBS cycle enables the user to rent and share cycles for short-distance trips without the need to own or maintain the cycle. Apart from picking up and dropping off at nearby stands, the PBS cycle can be also subscribed to and brought home and can be used like a personal bicycle to travel door-to-door short-distance trips, or can also be used to connect with the nearest Public Transport for long-distance trips. A PBS cycle hence makes way as a really good micro-mobility alternative compared to other polluting or passive electric micro-mobility options currently in use.
With different types of cycles available, PBS schemes are increasingly getting inclusive to be used hassle-free by differently-abled persons too. From offering regular bicycles to geared ones and electric and pedal-assisted options too, the PBS service provider offers diverse schemes like one-time use, monthly/ annual subscriptions, etc.
As the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns kept everyone depending on their feet or bicycles to commute, the central government believed to make people implement cycling as a mainstay even as we put the pandemic behind us. Under the Smart Cities Mission, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, in June 2022 the Centre introduced an initiative India Cycles4Change Challenge to support Indian cities to implement cycling-friendly initiatives.
Reportedly, the federal initiative has encouraged over 100 cities to test fast and cost-effective methods to encourage cycling which includes bike sharing and cycle-to-work programs, among several others. Not only does it help dodge the bustling traffic, but cycling also ensures social distancing, a much-required quality to combat contact-spread diseases. Moreover, increasing the lung capacity to draw more oxygen and cycling also ensures the maintenance of good respiratory health.
With the rise in the privatization of several PSUs in India, the transportation space in India is seeing conscious entrepreneurs aiming to connect commuters to reach their destinations emission-free. In the quest to achieve so, electrifying the public transport systems is reliable but remains a distant dream. On the contrary, bicycles have been human’s most efficient invention not only letting them reach places sooner but also boosting their overall well-being. With little investment required, the only challenge that PBS service providers currently face is awareness. With the support from the governments to inform the citizens increasingly about the services and their benefits, PBS has a bright future to make India not only healthy but an exemplary nation to connect travellers sustainably.
Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.
Arjit Soni is the Founder of MYBYK. MYBYK is India’s largest and most successful bike-sharing platform that empowers daily commute through equitable and sustainable mobility to the masses. It is a personal public transport platform that helps millions of daily commuters with active and sustainable modes of travel.