It is a universally accepted fact that cycling and walking are ecological modes of transport. The carbon footing, if any, is the bare minimum, they are cost effective, release zero emissions, and add nothing to our ever-increasing energy consumption levels. Most Indian cities appear to be the testament of green modes of transportation, with walking and cycling accounting to 40-50% of the total modal share, and less than a quarter of urban trips are on personal motor vehicles. But the ground reality is starkly different.
Over the last twenty-odd years, transport planning in India has focused primarily on improving conditions for private automobiles at the expense of safe footpaths and cycling facilities. Carriageways are only getting broader and footpaths narrower!
Increasing the use of cycles and the ease of walking are affordable and practical ways to bring about sustainable growth. Cities like Chennai, Pune, and Ranchi are extensively working on initiatives such as the Complete Streets project, to enhance accessibility and mobility. The project aims to introduce Indian cities to the concepts of high-quality footpaths, segregated cycle tracks, safe pedestrian crossing and regulated on-street parking.
The mantra being simple: city streets must be accessible to users from all walks, no matter the age, gender, physical abilities, etc.
In 2014, Chennai became the first city in India to adopt the Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) Policy. The policy, reviewed by us, sets aside 60% of the Chennai Corporation’s transport budget for the creation and maintenance of walking and cycling networks in the city. So far, Chennai has accomplished over 75 km of Complete Streets and is redesigning an additional 60 km of street network.
Moving the Complete Streets agenda forward is Pune, with a unique set of Urban Street Design Guidelines. With technical inputs from us, these guidelines were developed to prioritise walking, cycling, and public transport infrastructure. Based on these guidelines, JM Road and DP Road were transformed and they showcase world-class standards.
In fact, as part of the Smart City Mission, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs mandated cities to come up with innovative and sustainable measures to ensure “complete streets”. To support the idea of inclusive streets, the Mission launched ‘The Complete Streets Framework Toolkit ’. 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.