Govt urges use of bicycles, EVs to mitigate risk posed by public transport

The Centre was of the view that the country had a robust 700 kilometre of metro rail in 18 major cities and a BRT (bus rapid transit) network of about 450 kilometres in 11 cities carrying 10 million passengers daily
Public transportation across the country would need a fresh impetus in the aftermath of the Covid-19 outbreak as the Union government plans to slowly relax the curbs on movement. 

The Centre has asked states, cities and metro rail companies to encourage non-motorised transport. The aim is to reduce load on conventional transport and shift it to public transport to mitigate risks for commuters. 

The ministry of housing and urban affairs on Friday issued an advisory to states, union territories, cities and metro rail companies, suggesting a three-pronged strategy, to be adopted in a phased manner – short term within six months, medium within one year and long term of one to three years.

The Centre has asked states to encourage and revive non-motorised transport like bicycles and electric vehicles. Both are environment friendly and could help mitigate pollution risk that comes with more people moving away from public transport.
“As most urban trips are clocked in under five kilometres, non-motorised vehicles are the perfect ones to implement in this Covid-19 crisis. This is because it requires low cost, less human resource, is easy and quick to implement, scalable and environment friendly,” an official statement said. 

This, however, would require dedicated lanes which cannot be made in the short term. The strategy will focus on decongesting the metro cities and offer environment-friendly mobility solutions. 

According to C Shikha, managing director, Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation, increasing safety awareness and implementation of protocols were imperative to gain passenger confidence. 

 

 
Bengaluru and Mumbai have the worst traffic jams in the country and any more pressure of private vehicles would clog the roads. The corporation has “a very swift SOP (standard operating procedure)” which it follows and is working towards increasing public awareness, she said recently at a conference on public transport. Digital ticketing with QR codes would be compulsory for the city. As of June 5, 50 per cent of the corporation’s buses were operating on this model.

 
In some studies conducted by the urban affairs ministry, it found that about 16-57 per cent of urban commuters are pedestrian and about 30-40 per cent use bicycles in the country.
It said the government was considering this an opportunity. Besides giving commuters an alternative, it also provides a clean, safe, secure and integrated mode of transport.

The Centre is of the view that the country had a robust 700 km of metro rail in 18 major cities and a BRT (bus rapid transit) network of about 450 km in 11 cities, carrying 10 million passengers daily. However, their capacities are not being utilised optimally due to distancing norms and they are currently functioning at 25-50 per cent of pre-Covid levels.

“Such dramatic and dynamic changes in demand and supply will require complementing these public transport systems with alternative modes of transit,” the statement said.

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) had taken some steps on integration of different modes of transport and roping in clean energy solutions for last mile connectivity, .

In December 2018, the Delhi government introduced a common mobility card that would enable city commuters to access metro and bus services with a single card at a 10 per cent discount. Also in September 2019, e-bike sharing platform Yulu annouced e-bike rental services in collaboration with DMRC. The Bengaluru-based micro-mobility platform will operate in 40 zones around nine metro stations in the National Capital Region (NCR).
DMRC plans to deploy 5,000 electric non-motorised vehicles — YULU Miracles — at metro stations and extend these services to all the metro stations in the NCR. 

 
These initiatives would be further pushed but would require a fine balance between safe mobility and clean mode of transportation, said a person in the know.

Many developed countries have already started work on adoption of innovative mobility solutions. New York has added 40 miles of new non-motorised transport lanes to support cyclists. In the UK, local businesses relocated from road space for pedestrians to allow residents to respect social distancing guidelines.

Several studies have suggested that with health anxiety, commuters would opt for private vehicles.  This would add to pollution, congestion and adversely impact road safety.


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