Representational image. (Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO)
Representational image. (Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO)

Rented cycle cheapest transport in Delhi but lack of infra a hurdle: WRI

The Delhi government and the city’s municipalities are working on plans to ensure that cycling tracks are marked along major arterial roads
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 01:56 PM IST

Renting a cycle is the cheapest mode of last-mile connectivity in Delhi, a World Resources Institute (India) analysis has found. The analysis shows renting a cycle costs 10 for a five km-ride. The same distance costs 20 on the Delhi Metro, 60 in an autorickshaw, 15 on an air-conditioned (AC) bus, 10 on a non-AC bus and between 90 to 95 in a cab.

The analysis highlighted with traffic levels in cities returning to pre-pandemic levels, it is important to keep the momentum for cycling going.

“Cities should explore implementing public bicycle sharing (PBS) systems; a flexible transport service where users can rent a cycle for short periods of time, making it a low-cost, sustainable, and socially distant mode of commute,” said Prateek Diwan, senior project associate, WRI (India).

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The analysis showed cycling mode share (percentage of trips on cycles) was 11% in Delhi and the city ranked fourth after Ranchi (19%), Surat (16%) and Bhopal (13%). The percentage in Delhi was higher than in metropolitan cities such as Hyderabad (10%), Bengaluru (5%) and Mumbai (1%).

Despite a reasonable share of commuters relying on it, a lack of safe cycling infrastructure was not letting the mode realise its full potential in Delhi, researchers said.

“While this is not to say that people should not use public transport modes, but especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, when there is still an apprehension among people to use mass transit modes, cycling infrastructure can be developed for safe and cheap commuting,” Diwan said.

The WRI (India) research noted that when a PBS system is newly introduced in a city, there is a sudden spurt in demand from recreational and curious riders, often driven by promotional discounts. Companies are often unable to sustain this demand and there is a lack of infrastructure for converting cycling into a commuting option.

There was a surge in cycle rental when the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation and the New Delhi Municipal Council set up PBS models in central Delhi. There were aimless rides around India Gate, Agrasen ki Baoli and Connaught Place and not for commuting between metro stations or between metro stations and workplaces as they were intended to be. This was primarily because even the existing cycling tracks were either encroached upon or were not available as a continuous stretch. The tracks were also poorly maintained.

The Delhi government and the city’s municipalities are working on plans to ensure that cycling tracks are marked along major arterial roads. The Public Works Department in December created a 2.5m-wide rubber-coated cycle track and a separate pedestrian path along a 500m stretch of the Ring Road, from Nehru Nagar to Sriniwaspuri.

Officials said the beautification drive, which includes cycle tracks, pedestrian walkways and protected bus stands for users, is part of the government’s bigger project to redevelop and redesign roads to meet European standards.

“Work is also on for a 3km stretch between Ashram and Moolchand on the Ring Road, which will be redesigned by creating cycling and pedestrian facilities. In the first phase, we will start similar works on two more road stretches in east Delhi,” an official said.

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced in December that the process of appointing a consultant for redesigning 540km roads to match those in European cities has been completed and a report will be readied by February end.

Experts said the government should use the interest among people in cycling because of the pandemic and develop safe spaces for cyclists.

Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy), Centre for Science and Environment, said their analysis has shown that commuters in Delhi were preferring private modes of transportation fearing the spread of infection in shared mass transit modes.

“We had seen a major spike in cycling among the middle class, vehicle owning segment, but the government needs to sustain this interest by providing them with safe infrastructure. Once there is a provision of dedicated cycle tracks that are uninterrupted, the demand for cycling will automatically swell. It is a cheaper and healthier option,” said Roychowdhury.

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