India joins the global cycling movement for a sustainable post-COVID-19 green recovery; envisions a robust and inclusive approach for remodelling it’s cities under India Cycles4Change Challenge.
Smart Cities Mission, an urban renewal program by the Government of India launched a nationwide campaign ‘India Cycles4Change Challenge’ through a webinar held on 10th July 2020.
With Public Transportation becoming a key concern due to Covid-19, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA) with its Smart Cities Mission intents to overhaul its urban eco-system and facilitate walking and cycling infrastructure.
The challenge will inspire, reward and provide support to Indian cities for initiating cycling-friendly interventions.
India Cycles4Change challenge prioritizes the promotion of cycling through a collaborative method, bringing expert groups and citizens under one common platform and develop an integrated vision to implement measures that are quick and low-cost.
The India Chapter of Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), will be the knowledge partner of the Smart Cities Mission to assist the Mission in conducting this challenge and guiding cities in developing and implementing their proposals. ITDP launched a portal https://smartnet.niua.org/indiacyclechallenge/ for cities to apply and participate in this challenge and reimagine their spaces.
Speaking about the launch, Shreya Gadepalli, South Asia Programme Lead, ITDP said “The India Cycles4Change Challenge aims to kick-start a cycling revolution across the country. Through this Challenge, cities, citizens, and experts come together to transform our cities into havens for cycling”.
About India Cycles4Change Challenge:
The urban renewal campaign will have two stages:
- Pilot intervention and conceptual scale-up plan to be conducted between July’20 and October’20. In phase 1, participating cities are to initiate and implement quick interventions and promotional activities to encourage cycling and develop a conceptual scale-up strategy.
- Scaling-up pilot interventions planned between Oct’20 and May’21. Cities that get shortlisted will be assisted with inputs from national and international experts to further develop and commence the implementation of the conceptual scale-up plan.
In the first year, 141 cities are eligible to participate in this challenge and the selected ones will be entitled for a prize money of 1 crore rupees as a reward.
This challenge is open to cities under the Smart Cities Mission, capital cities of states / UTs, and cities with a population of over 5 lakh people.
Cities that do not qualify in the 1st year can always re-apply in the next cycle of the challenge, which will be held in July 2021.
Revival of Cycling Culture in India:
The lost cycling culture in India seems to be getting revived with personal safety being the prime concern for citizens. More importantly, the time-frame of Covid-19 cure and full recovery from the pandemic remains uncertain, and hence people are rekindling their romance with bicycling to re-start their livelihood and explore outdoor life.
Additionally, cycling perfectly fulfills physical distancing norms, cuts cross age-groups, is cost-effective and reduces dependency on public transport. The personal mobility vehicle which once upon a time was deeply penetrated in the rural heartland, and played a significant part in the urban development of India during the pre-and post-independence era, is now making a come-back with renewed interest and for good reasons.
A recent survey by the ITDP India Program shows that “Cycling would increase by 50-65% as cities come out of lockdown”. The forecast has already started to signal signs of growth as most cities have recorded a spike in the demand for bicycles.
“Cycle sales are on an upswing in Bengaluru post the lockdown” with the steady increase in footfalls reported a media house. Consumers are rushing to bike shops and whisking away with what they find suitable.
“There is a phenomenal increase in the number of sales inquiries and footfalls in our shop with nearly 70-80% getting converted. Our average ticket size has also gone up as more customers are opting for protective gear like helmets, gloves and goggles for personal safety” said Aditya Bafna, Managing Director and CEO Element Retail.
Besides, another incentive to ride came from the authorities of the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) in Bengaluru, the airport has allowed movement of cyclists on Sundays between 06:30 am and 09:30 am with secured parking facility.
Talking about his cycling experience at the airport, Murugan Shobana, General Manager, Mahindra Holidays stated “Airports were open only for automobiles until now, I was thrilled to learn about this welcoming change. I noticed a good response to the permission as cyclist from all across the city came to enjoy the new route on a Sunday morning”.
Similar trends of a boom in cycling sales are seen in Kolkata at the back of a policy shift. Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal urged the police to give cyclists more access to city roads through an official notification. Certain arterial roads in the city were banned for more than a decade due to safety reasons which are now accessible to the cyclist.
“From the beginning of the month of June, a sudden surge in cycle usage was observed throughout the city. People across age-groups, gender and economic backgrounds are adopting cycling as a personal transport,” said Satanjib Gupta, Bicycle Mayor of Kolkata appointed by BYCS and member of Kolkata Cycle Samaj.
Earlier, in an open letter, the Kolkata Cycle Samaj had urged the CM to promote cycling as a primary and safe mode of transport. 40 odd bicycle mayors in the country wrote nearly identical letters to their respective CM of the state.
“Cycle sales rise in Kolkata amid fear of Covid-19 transmission in public transport” confirmed a tweet by Press Trust of India.
Likewise, Mumbai too has seen a surge in cycle sales with a visible increase in recreational cycling. Many bike shop owners endorsed this development through a survey conducted by me two weeks ago. Out of the 22 bike shops that participated in the survey, 80% agreed to have recorded growth in sales.
Sales volume increased by 200% for more than 2/3rd of the bike shops. (Read: Recreational Cycling Accelerates in Mumbai, Consumers Rush to Cycle Shops).
Public Bike Sharing Services:
Unlock the bike, ride to your destination, dock it and you are on your way. It’s dam simple!
In the pursuit to make our cities more attractive and sustainable models, Public bike Sharing Services (PBS) is a viable alternative available to us. PBS is an environmental friendly, innovative concept that can be used on ‘need basis’ minus the costs and responsibilities associated with ownership.
With a dense network, PBS can potentially feed-in to the city’s public transport services giving the city a more human-friendly image. Shared micro-mobility schemes reduce congestion, emissions and fuel usage. It’s easy on the pocket and gives flexibility to users especially in times of corona.
A survey conducted by Yulu Bikes, a Bengaluru based tech-driven shared mobility company, to identify micro-mobility choices and commute pattern post lockdown revealed ‘Safety from coronavirus is the top-most concern for commuters post the lockdown”.
“Yulu has on-boarded significant users in the past few weeks post lockdown 3.0, which proves solo ridership is the most preferred choice of users”, the press release claimed.
Commenting on the survey findings, Amit Gupta, Co-Founder & CEO, YULU said, “As we transcend towards the new normal, it is interesting to note that there is a surge in the demand of solo and sanitized mobility solutions. We are witnessing a V shape recovery with 1.6X growth in the percentage of new users and a 50% increase in the distance, as well as usage time”. (Read: What Commuters Won’t Do While Commuting Post Lockdown)
Things are not too different for other app-based bike-sharing operators. Bharat Vijay, a local resident and cyclist in Ahmedabad city says “I see a lot of people using shared bicycles these days. In fact, more than pre-corona days”.
PBS creates an ideal scenario for running daily errands or meeting short commute needs. Many 1st timers and returning riders are considering rental services before they decide to own one.
Arjit Soni, Founder of MYBYK, a Public Bike Sharing operator in Ahmedabad confirmed through a statement “We re-launched ‘AmdaBike’ after lockdown on June 1st. And within one month we have crossed 600+ cycles deployment with a network of 60 stations and 7000+ members”.
The interest in Public Bike Share is evolving “We are deploying 100 cycles per week and our user base is increasing by 1000 users per week” he added.
Why Community initiatives are important:
To convert our cities into a full-grown liveable society, a multi-pronged approach is required. Initiatives by and for the local community will be critical to trigger the Behaviour Change. Certain actions as listed by ITDP like creating pop-up cycle lanes, designated slow zones, car-free days, equal streets, cycle maintenance workshops, rental and public bike-sharing schemes and finally the marketing of cycling shall encourage people participation.
For instance, the ‘Happy Street’ project at Law Garden in Ahmedabad makes a great example of the street transformation project. After revamping the old ‘Khau Gully’ into a new avatar as Happy Street, the street now has a cycle track, wall art, landscaping and furniture. The place is brightly lit up in the evening with food trucks and ice cream trikes for gastronomic indulgence or to spend leisurely time.
Who would have imagined that ‘Raahgiri Day’, a small gathering of like-minded people on a Sunday morning in Gurugram in New Delhi back in 2013 will become India’s largest urban movement?
Hundreds of people joined the chorus of having temporary closure of a 4.5 km of stretch, giving a free run for outdoor games, bicycling and opportunity to discover the lanes on foot; which later became a monthly phenomenon.
Photo credit: Rahagiri.
Seven years into it, the concept is spread to over 70 cities in India, primarily because it’s a platform for positive collaboration and owned by all.
Socio-community initiatives bridge the class divide, stimulate creative solutions for real-life problems as citizens with varied interests come together to discover the best possibilities to build better and inclusive spaces for everyone.
Visit the website : India Cycles4Change Challenge
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai