Last month, the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways had said that Mumbai can’t get cycle tracks for sorely lacking adequate space. Ironically, a perception survey of Mumbai’s legendary dabbawalas has revealed that 89% of them want dedicated cycle lanes in the city, while 100% of respondents have stressed the need for safe parking spaces for their cycles, which is their primary mode of transport for tiffin delivery. These measures, they said, will prevent theft and damage.
The survey has been conducted by non-profit Waatavaran Foundation and supported by another non-government organisation Sustainable Mobility Network.
Of the 500 dabbawalas spread out in nine neighbourhoods of Mumbai, 220 were interviewed to understand the state of cycling infrastructure and the challenges faced by them. The nine locations included Churchgate, Marine Lines, Grant Road, Parel, Dadar, Bandra, Andheri, Ghatkopar and Mulund.
From the sample size, 86% dabbawalas believed that deliveries on cycles will improve air quality, while 71% wanted all last mile deliveries to take place on cycles, thereby making a case for clean and sustainable deliveries.
On Thursday, a report on their needs was released by Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar, who said, “The survey has brought out the startling facts about how the city’s dabbawalas are contributing to reduction in carbon emission. The survey shows that 92% of all the respondents use bicycles as their primary mode of transport. The survey also shows their commitment to clean air and their progressive stand of urging other last mile delivery partners to opt for bicycles.”
Mr Narwekar said he is certain that this survey, a comprehensive document on the topic, will serve as reference material for the Climate Change Committee of Maharashtra Legislature.
Talking about the challenges faced daily, dabbawalas are of the view that road traffic is a major concern as it affects their efficiency, while road safety is a cause for concern for all cyclists. They also want local train infrastructure to be cycle inclusive. They cited that separate wagons and ramps will be helpful for transporting cycles and tiffin at railway stations.
“Such a survey was never carried out for us before. It has revealed important aspects of the community. We want to continue using an environment-friendly mode of transport for our delivery,” said Ulhas Muke, President of Mumbai Dabbawalas Association.
He added, “Making Mumbai a cycle inclusive infrastructure city will definitely motivate others to opt to cycle to work, especially other last mile delivery partners. Although we understand the challenges of space, things like creating parking space for bicycles is easier unlike motorised vehicles. We are hopeful that the government will support us to sustain the use of bicycles.”
“The survey’s results show that, in order to reduce emissions in Mumbai’s delivery industry, the dabbawala community needs considerable support. There is an urgent need to decarbonise the last mile delivery industry and Dabbawalas are showing the way,” said Bhagwan Kesbhat, CEO of Waatavaran.