If each year is a grain of sand in the proverbial hourglass, then humanity has all of 12 grains to save the world from an apocalyptic fate. At least, that’s what the recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report concludes. Left with little to no alternatives, nations are scurrying towards sustainable measures to maintain the endangered ecological balance.
In this scenario, India’s urban mobility challenges rattle many warning signs and needs intervention. Though private motor vehicle population surges and is supported by government expenditure, 75% of urban Indian trips are still made via sustainable modes such as walking, cycling, and public transport.
A realisation that is helping the Indian government rework its approach to transportation. Herein, our expertise in the sustainable mobility sector has reckoned it to be a guiding voice in shaping India’s sustainable tomorrow.
Women Move to their Own Beat
While there is momentum in addressing women’s safety in public transport, urban transport investments are largely gender blind. A report by Sakhi Women’s Resource Centre revealed that over 80% of women faced sexual harassment while either waiting for or riding on public transport. As a result, sustainable urban development will remain elusive without integrating women and girls in urban transport.
Championing the cause for safer and comfortable mobility for women, we and Safetipin released a policy brief on Women and Transport in Indian Cities. The brief outlines the broad issues faced by women and girls when using or accessing urban transport, and recommends key measures to enable equitable access. The policy was recognised on a global platform such as the 2018 Women Mobilize Women conference at Leipzig.
To further the cause for safe and accessible public transport for women, we collaborated with Janki Devi Memorial College and Safetipin to conduct safety audits around 16 bus terminals in Delhi. The study provides urban planners gender perspective on street design and also offers corrective measures which can improve the on-street experience of women and girls.
Smarter Steps to a Smarter Future
Recognising the need for sustainable mobility, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) of the Government of India has highlighted it as an essential element for the Smart City Mission. The MoHUA welcomed us to aide cities in reimagining their streets and mobility culture.
To provide smarter urban streets, cities are implementing the Complete Street project. In support of inclusive streets, the Mission launched ‘The Complete Streets Framework Toolkit ’ in 2019. Designed with technical inputs from us, it aims at guiding the 100 selected cities to prioritise walking, cycling, and public transport over cars, unlocking the inherent potential of the street space.
Additionally, we will guide the selected cities through the process by building capacity of officials via workshops and training sessions. And review progress made by cities to ensure smooth sailing of the project.
Laying the Foundation for Sustainability
As of 2017, we were a part of the H8 Committee of the Indian Roads Congress (IRC) and authored the new IRC BRT Guidelines, and Planning and Design of Urban Road, and revised IRC 70: Regulation and Control of Mixed Traffic in Urban Areas. These guidelines will apply for all cities across India and guide them towards low-carbon mobility.
We are also working with the Association of State Road Transport Undertakings (ASRTU), the apex coordinating body under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. Through this partnership, we will be a knowledge partner and advisor to ASRTU and its members.
Slowly but steadily, India is coming to terms with the needs of the future, where smart cities have the ability to create a sustainable, equitable, and liveable environment. In such a climate, we will stand for every move which transforms the quality and availability of walking, cycling, and public transport infrastructure and services for Indian citizens.