The Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs on Friday came out with an advisory on the strategy of promoting cycling as an alternative mode of transport, combined with public transport of buses and metro rails for low and middle income commuters, in the post-COVID era to keep the cities moving as the economies restart.
With a sense of insecurity in the minds of the public in travelling in public transport during these testing times, the ministry warned about the possibility of a surge in the number of private vehicles on road that will not only create pollution and serious congestions but also eat away space for other modes of public transport, adversely affecting the road safety.
The advisory issued by Housing & Urban Affairs Secretary Durga Shankar Mishra suggests a 3-pronged strategy in a phased manner -- Short within six months, medium within a year and a long term within three years. He suggests that the people can travel long distances by the public transport and the remaining distances by bicycles or on foot.
Noting that ownership of personal modes in India is still at relatively low level and the large majority is the captive users of public transport, it said the city will have to ensure alternative mobility options by giving major focus on the non-motorised transport in the months to come. It said even the shopping areas should be gradually pedestrianised to decongest them and make them more accessible to public for a pleasant and safe experience. The ministry noted that the focus of the city planners should be on complementing the public transport systems with cycle tracks and walking tracks and at the same time put in service public buses and metro rails, taking advantage of robust 700 km of operational metro rail in 18 major cities and about 450 km of BRT (Bus Rapid Transport) network operational in 11 cities across the country that was carrying 10 million passengers daily until the corona virus struck.
It said re-establishing the earlier level of ridership in public transport is a big challenge for cities, as people do not want to take risk of getting infected and they may be looking for more options, especially the personal modes that allow for safer travel in the post lockdown scenario.