India’s cycling communities are pedalling for a sustainable commute option post-COVID-19

Sumati Prabhakar and her husband MA Prabhakar had been in want of assist through the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown in Bengaluru. The aged couple couldn’t step out of their house. But they had been hardly discomforted. Groceries had been delivered at doorstep. Medicines reached them on time. Even a drainage drawback was mounted swiftly. Sumati thanks Relief Riders, a group of 200 plus cyclists who help the town’s senior residents through the lockdown.

The volunteers are a a part of the #CycleToWork marketing campaign that Bengaluru’s bicycle mayor, Sathya Sankaran launched in 2018. He is a a part of BYCS, a Dutch social enterprise that heads a worldwide community of worldwide cycle mayors. The organisation’s 50by30 mission envisions making half of the world’s metropolis journeys by bicycle, by 2030.

Sankaran and different bicycle mayors of India imagine the COVID-19 lockdown may catalyse this motion. “Public transport is going to be less secure,” says Sankaran, “So, using individual motor vehicles seems like the easy alternative. Normalcy doesn’t have to necessarily mean going back to our old ways. We can practise a sustainable way of life.”

Seeking help

Sankaran together with Dr Arvind Bhateja, a neurosurgeon and a bike owner, have give you the #ResetWithCycling marketing campaign that brings collectively residents, docs, environmentalists, city planners and the Government to revive cities’ transport after the lockdown.

Bengaluru Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao mentioned in help of the marketing campaign, “I am urging you to come out and ride our cycle for your own interest and the interest of the city. Spread the word in the community, make it a bigger group.”

Bicycle mayors from different cities are following swimsuit. Felix John in Chennai has written to the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister looking for higher infrastructure for cyclists. “We are usually considered a nuisance to motorists on roads,” he says, “Now is a good time for the authorities to experiment with cycle corridors on commercial roads like OMR.”

In Pune, Abhijeet Kupate wrote to the town’s Mayor and Police Commissioner. The metropolis’s civic physique, Pune Municipal Corporation, has a ‘comprehensive bicycle plan’ to develop cycle tracks and design parking areas amongst others. Despite this, Abhijeet says, “There’s a lack of strategy and planning. I haven’t received any responses from the authorities that I wrote to.”

Guwahati’s bicycle mayor, Arshel Akhter, has additionally requested the Assam Government to make the town’s roads bike-friendly. He says, “The Government, however, seems reluctant to implement such projects. Maybe it is not focusing on these things now. But it will benefit a lot of people. Most people who cycle to work belong to low-income groups.”

Feasibility in India

The Energy and Resources Institute’s (TERI) report from 2018, Benefits of Cycling in India, estimates that 50% of Indians stroll or cycle to work (excluding agriculture and family industries). In city areas,after strolling, employees are most depending on two-wheelers.

It estimates India can save ₹ 27 billion in gasoline and ₹ 241 billion as a result of decreased air air pollution if 50 % of two-wheeler and four-wheeler journeys (inside eight kilometres) are substituted by cycle journeys. The report provides, “If bicycles were to substitute the two-and four-wheelers used for short-distance trips, it can result in an annual benefit of ₹1.8 trillion.”

“India’s the world’s diabetic capital. More than a 100 million are affected by obesity. This can all be reduced if people switch to cycling. The endorphins, a cycle-ride helps release, is good for your mental health,” says Dr Bhateja.

But can India redesign its cities to accommodate cyclists?

Sonal Kulkarni, an city transport coverage planner, says it could. “Our cities are similar to the ones in Europe, which are more conducive to cyclists. If it were like the ones in the US, it might have been difficult. If the people and the Government cooperate, we can reinvent the way we commute .”

She provides, “The Government should recommend cycling in their guidelines and incentivise cyclists. We can get used to the changes now and it will be the new normal after the crisis is over.”

Even if the Government implements cyclist-friendly measures, two- and four-wheeler house owners may hesitate to change to a bicycle. Hot summers, dusty roads with potholes and bodily exertion are potential deterrents.

Of this, Dr Bhateja says, “Of course, a change such as this is going to be difficult. But at some point, we need to think of the greater good as well.”

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