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 the ITDP India Programme, 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 the India Programme, 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 the ITDP India Programme, 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.
Reducing private car use not only requires improvements in walking and cycling facilities, but also better management of on-street parking. In most Indian cities, unorganised on-street parking and invasion of pedestrian footpaths by parked cars is a common sight. This oversight in parking management not only hinders pedestrian movement, but also feeds into the prevalent inequality of access to urban spaces and drains the government coffers of revenue.
The Pune Municipal Corporation heralded a new era of travel demand management by regulating on-street parking. In 2018, the city adopted the Pune Parking Policy that introduces a fee for on-street parking based on demand levels, as well as better enforcement techniques such as IT-based parking management that eliminate the need for cash collection, thereby reducing revenue leakage. As for Ranchi, a pilot parking management project on the arterial MG Road stretch led to a twelve-fold increase in parking revenue. The state of Jharkhand, spurred by the revenue spike in its capital’s pilot parking management project, invested efforts to regulate parking as a statewide policy.
Chennai is also planning a parking management system to manage 12,000 car park spaces across the city. In doing so, the city stands to gain Rs 550 million per year in revenue—a whopping 110 times increase from what it presently earns.
As mentioned earlier, green modes such as walking and cycling form a significant part of the Indian transportation culture. By ensuring pedestrian and cyclists are given due consideration, Indian cities will drive the dialogue further.
The ITDP India Programme has codified many of the lessons learned from street design work in cities across India in Better Streets, Better Cities: a Guide to Street Design in Urban India, published in 2011. A further resource, Footpath Design and Footpath Fix, provides a quick reference to key concepts on designing and implementing better pedestrian facilities.