The idea of having a bicycle mayor germinated in an Amsterdam-based social enterprise called BYCS. BYCS believes that bicycles can transform cities, which in turn holds the potential to transform the world. The undertaking operates with a mission of 50by30, which is to ensure that 50 percent of all the travel within cities across the world takes place on bicycles by 2030.
Today, it is not just BYCS that is working towards encouraging a bicycle and pedestrian friendly culture, several organisations, government bodies and individuals are striving for it. The city of Udaipur located in the southernmost part of Rajasthan is one of them.
How is Udaipur going green with transport
Whether it is unhealthy lifestyle, traffic congestion or vehicular pollution, bicycles can iron out a slew of inconveniences. With these advantages in mind, Yougal Tak, the bicycle mayor of Udaipur, began spreading awareness about cycling among citizens.
“To increase consciousness, I started a campaign known as ‘Mhari Cycle’ (My Cycle) and it connected with the people instantly”, he says.
Tak, an urban planner by profession, took inspiration from movements like World Car Free Day, Raahgiri Day and Happy Streets and sought to reclaim the streets for the people of Udaipur.
Besides this campaign, he also introduced and popularised the concept of public bicycle sharing (PBS) in the city through an app.
“A lot of individuals are presently using MyByk, which is a bike rental and sharing app, founded in Ahmedabad. As of now, the bicycles have pick-up and drop facilities only at the Fateh Sagar Lake area, but we have plans of making it operational across Udaipur”, adds Tak.
Since Rajasthan is a state that sees a huge influx of tourists every year, there is a lot more opportunity to promote cycling.
“If even 20 percent of the 11 lakh tourists who visit the city use a cycle, the overall carbon footprint is bound to reduce to a large extent. Besides, cycling is one of the best ways to enable travellers to absorb the charm and beauty of their surroundings,” he says.
With a view to ingrain the healthy habit of pedalling among young boys and girls, Tak is putting in an effort to allocate space for bicycle parking within school compounds.
Obstacles along the way
India is a country where people are still reluctant to go around in cycles and use it as a primary mode of transport. This is because unlike European countries, there is a stigma that underprivileged individuals travel by cycle and the affluent go around in bikes or cars. Furthermore, there are not many loans that are offered for purchasing bicycles. This is another reason why people do not resort to cycling. Nonetheless, Tak says that the trend is changing in metro cities.
Due to the exposure provided by media outlets, educational institutes, etc, people residing in metropolitans like Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru are aware of sustainable living. They know that travelling in cars and private vehicles adds to the carbon footprint. And hence, they are making an effort to shift to non-motorized transport (NMT) like cycling.
Providing context to Rajasthan, Tak says, “Since the climate in the state is quite hot during summers, shaded spaces for resting and parking as well as artificial canopies or trees are imperative for a good cycling experience. Most importantly, dedicated cycling lanes especially through the prime routes are a must.”
“A holistic approach is needed when it comes to creating a cycle-friendly environment. While transportation planners need to chalk out possible interventions to ensure safety and convenience for cyclists, the government has to promote it more actively. And of course, as citizens, we have to shatter the social stigma attached to riding cycles,” the mayor says.
Edited by Roshni Shroff
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