Wheels of change: bicycling revolution slowly gathering momentum in India

Jul 26, 2016 03:10 PM IST

Besides boosting the last-mile connectivity, cycle sharing expands the catchment areas for a city’s rapid transit systems and also has direct impact on real estate

Last mile connectivity! Today it has become one of the most important issues faced by citizens living in urban India, especially the ones dependent on multiple public transport systems for their daily commute.

Cycle sharing expands the catchment areas for a city’s rapid transit systems and also has direct impact on real estate.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Cycle sharing expands the catchment areas for a city’s rapid transit systems and also has direct impact on real estate.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Our cities are seeing huge investments to uplift and augment their transportation network and are expanding their rapid transit systems. This is leading to an astonishing transportation structure in the country. In spite of all such remarkable developments, the point of providing affordable and convenient ‘last mile connectivity’ to the public transport networks continues as a comparatively neglected area of focus. Certain part of cities are being served with para-transit modes such as share auto-rickshaws and feeder bus services but these services are limited to a few and selective stations. Similarly, though walking becomes an inevitable last mile connectivity option, it comes with a disclaimer: ‘the local climate, physical condition and distance’.

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To overcome this major public concern, our cities are slowly being upgraded with an important strategic initiative to expand their sustainable transport modes termed as cycle sharing system.

Cycle sharing is a public transport system in which people have access to cycles that can be used across a network of closely spaced stations. Cycle sharing is a concept that originated in the 1960s. But it took years to catch on until better technology was developed to provide real-time information about the scheme, tracking the bikes and also protecting the bikes against theft and vandalism.

At present, more than 700 cities across the globe have their own cycle-sharing systems, and more cities are added to the count every year. The largest systems are in China, in cities such as Hangzhou and Shanghai.

The European cities including Paris (Velib Bike Sharing System), Copenhagen (ByCyklen Smart Bike System) and the cities of United States such as Washington, DC (Capital Bikeshare), New York (Citi Bike) etc. are highly successful systems that have helped promote cycling as a viable and valued transport option.

Compared to other transport networks, Cycle Sharing schemes are reasonably low cost and easy to implement, which proves to be the major reason for its boom at an unprecedented rate globally. And it’s an easy win for governments and urban societies, which can boost their green credentials by embracing such an environmentally friendly design.

After imprinting its wheels on major cities of the world, now in recent years the cycle sharing system has come to India. Our metro cities including Delhi (Planet Green Bikes), Ahmedabad (MYBYK), Bangalore (Atcag), Mumbai (Cycle Chalao) have already started experimenting with the concept of cycle sharing. Though the success rate of the system in Indian cities is not so high, with the lessons from the experiences of these cities and the success stories of European and American cities, Corporation of Chennai is also now keen to implement the system.

At present in India, the top 20 Smart Cities have already embarked on various sustainable transport initiatives such as the construction of expanded footpaths on all arterial streets, implementation of pedestrian zones to facilitate access to commercial areas and cultural landmarks and IT-based on-street parking management system in their Smart City Mission proposals.

Over 700 cities across the world have their own cycle sharing systems. (HT Estates)
Over 700 cities across the world have their own cycle sharing systems. (HT Estates)

Supplementing all these initiatives, cycle sharing is expected to enhance these efforts by helping the cities achieve their goals on sustainable transportation.

Generally, this system is implemented in phases. The identification of the appropriate coverage area for each phase is best carried out by qualified planning bodies through surveying and statistical data analysis. Surveys are also the key to locate ideal cycle station spaces based on the locality, connectivity, intensity of public movement and space availability for the docks.

Based on the survey results, the system size including the number of stations, number of cycles and corresponding number of docks in each station can be determined. The most successful systems have 2-2.5 docks for each cycle.

The cycle station locations are highly dependent on the actual local environment. Stations are mainly located around the core city areas covering all the public and recreation spaces, public transport hubs, malls, cultural landmarks, academic institutions, government offices, market areas etc.

The variety of options for ideal station spaces include wide pavements, space between landscaped areas, areas beneath flyovers and bridges, space adjacent to bus stops, on-street parking spaces etc.

Advertising space on cycles and at stations (provides revenue generation options for system operator/ corporation)

On boosting the last-mile connectivity, cycle sharing thereby expands the catchment areas for the city’s rapid transit systems and will also have direct impact on real estate development.

Also by encouraging a shift to sustainable modes the dependency on automobiles will be highly reduced. Bicycling is often faster than driving in urban areas, and one can cover a lot more territory than he/she can by walking.

The author is associate director - Strategic Consulting & Lead – Urban Solutions (Sri Lanka) JLL India

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