CPPR Chairman Dr D Dhanuraj comments in a news article published in The Times of India on challenges cycle share scheme will face due to the lack of cycling ecosystem in Kochi
Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL), which opened an additional 5.6 km and five new stations to its operations, has given a new lease to the city, which is choked by traffic and suffering from the woes of potholed roads and crumbling overbridges. The new stretch, extending from Maharaja’s College to Thykoodam, should come as a relief to commuters, but the question of how best to make use of feeder services to get to the metro is a nagging question to many.
When the metro first began operations in June 2017, a cycle share scheme was started by which metro users could avail cycles for free for up to 100 hours, and a total of 100 cycles were docked at various stations. But while these cycles, decked in KMRL branding, were lying unused and rusted from the word go, the next stretch is getting 1,000 brand new cycles to continue the scheme. With the ‘ghost of cycles past’ looming, what is the point of getting more?
Shagzil Khan, president of Cochin Bikers Club and tour guide, says this is a project that requires crores of investment and the delegation of responsibility to a particular agency to make it work, instead of just getting someone to provide the cycles as it is being done now. “When the roads were tarred on Marine Drive, it was done around the share scheme cycles docked there; that is how carelessly things are done here. No one took responsibility if the cycles were vandalised. That was a challenge faced when the project was first started,” he says, adding that the metro did not consult any authentic agency when starting the bike share scheme.
The bike share was badly chalked out on several levels, because none of the challenges for a metro commuter using the bicycles were thought through, he says. “The cycles needed a rack or a basket to keep a bag. It had no way to tackle to tyre puncture, which is highly likely in our hot weather. Is there a hub for cycle maintenance? There were no helmets provided. People needed to be made aware on how the cycles could be used on share basis. Cycling clubs, such as ours, should have been roped in to understand the needs of the local people,” points out Shagzil.
Hari G P, additional general manager (Urban Transport), KMRL, says, “The cycle share was done as a six-month pilot project by a private cycle club when the metro started working in June 2017. It was just a branding exercise for the metro. But according to the Metro Act, we only have the rights to construct the metro, but have no rights on the road and we have limitations.” Now, Cochin Smart Mission Ltd (CSML), which as part of providing ‘seamless green mobility’, is steering the public bike sharing project to cover the metro stations as well, he points out.
Cycles and autorickshaws play a major role in last-mile connectivity in a country like India, says a CSML official. “But with no cycle lanes and with our weather – six months of monsoon and humid weather – the possibility of people preferring this mode of traffic is not high,” says the official, adding that they are facilitating the bike share initiative to 220 locations under a privatepublic partnership model, and is set to be implemented after the Onam season. Users can avail the service through a mobile app, which will map the locations where the bikes can be used.
Athirup M S, who started the pilot project with the metro, insists that the cycle share is a good idea. “When we started, about 2,000 members had joined. We are giving them the use of cycles for free. There is no reason that the public would not use the cycles; they are plenty of college-goers and others who still come forward and ask why the scheme isn’t going forward,” he says, adding that the challenges are in finding funds in maintaining the cycles. “The metro was impressed and wanted to scale it up once we started, but we are a small player and cannot match CSML’s numbers. We are still hoping to continue the project,” says Athirup.
D Dhanuraj, chairman of Centre for Public Policy Research, an NGO which does research on infrastructure, among other things, points out that while the cycle share is a good idea, it would only work in places where people feel safe doing so. “The metro now has only about 30,000 users (before the new stretch started) of which about 7,000 are those going to the mall. Once the service grows with daily users, hopefully the share cycle scheme will work out. But we have challenges. There are no dedicated cycle tracks here. It should be made easy to use, like in Delhi. We need to build a whole ecosystem to enable and encourage cycling here,” he says.
This article was published in The Times of India on September 13, 2019 Click on to read