Research has revealed that a shift to walking and cycling by city dwellers can help save huge money on fuel, emission, congestion and accident costs.
Dr Ashish Verma, an assistant professor at the Centre for Infrastructure, Sustainable Transportation and Urban Planning (CiSTUP) at Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, and his student T M Rahul say, “If at least one per cent of Bengaluru’s population walk or cycle, the savings add up to an astounding Rs 2.5 lakh per day by way of reduced fuel, pollution, congestion and accident costs.”
They found that making Bengaluru’s busy MG Road a pedestrian-only zone can save Rs 1,600 per day in pollution and accident costs, apart from improving sales, land value and overall social atmosphere.
The researchers found that in Indian cities a large number of people make small trips averaging 9.6 km to 11.9 km, while average walking and cycling distances range at 0.8-1.7 km and 1.7-5.2 km, respectively.
The researchers see potential in walking/cycling as modes of transit from bus stops and train stations to commuter destinations. This highlights the need for improving infrastructure around public transport centres — introducing pedestrian/cycle lanes, public bicycle sharing systems, etc.
Absence of such facilities is the main impediment to containing vehicular growth. It also puts pedestrians at risk of road accidents and leads to traffic congestion which can burn one’s pockets at Rs 10.5 per km, say Ashish and Rahul.
They also took a closer look at walking and cycling distances in Bengaluru to identify how age, gender, travel purpose and socio-economic factors influence travel choices, calling for area-specific road planning.
“In other countries people walk and cycle much longer distances because their infrastructure is fantastic,” Verma says. He cites the example of Amsterdam which adopted a cycle-friendly policy in the early 1970s and now 60 per cent of the trips are made on cycles.
The policy-makers need to be clear about their goals. The goal of non-motorized transport, Verma says, is to “reduce our carbon footprint and provide sustainable mobility.”
“Eventually, a city has to be livable. The quality of life is not about having swanky cars and big houses. It is also about how you travel — how easy, comfortable, convenient and environment-friendly it is,” he concludes.
The study appeared in the Journal of Transport Geography and Research in Transportation Economics.