Paris is a city changed, for the better. When I last visited it 16 years ago, as a young, poorly travelled person at their first job, I liked it as tourists do. Last week, I saw it with older, green eyes. I was struck by the success of its cycling programme. If you are fairly fit in Paris today, and the weather tolerable, you don't need a car. Metro apart, there are hundreds of cycles to rent. In this city of 11 million, well-dressed men and women frequently whizz by. This in the midst of a very motorised city with full car parks.
Indian cities should learn. Our air pollution levels are high. Many people - often poor - already cycle to work. Poor cycling infrastructure ensures they are unsafe. In many cities-from Pune to Goa to Bangalore -an interest in cycling is brewing. About 30% of India's population is under 25. They comprise the core of cycling clubs, sometimes consider cycling to college and will be future buyers of cars. Braiding these strands, cycling should be strategically introduced as an important means of transportation. Let's be Parisian, but with a twist.
Visitors as Guards
Controversy surrounds the idea of tourists in protected areas. Of course, tourism takes its toll, with the noise and trash, for example, but it offers an unacknowledged service, if done well, it can be a monitoring mechanism for the ecosystem in some buffer zones and protected areas. Take the case of birds. Often, it is birders who raise the alarm when an area faces danger from alien species and lack of water. Both these public red alerts put pressure to improve the situation. Just as we ask for transparency in information sharing, allowing a limited number of people under strict conditions is an excellent way to keep smaller, isolated ecosystems protected. Something to consider as parks begin closing to prepare for the next season.