COVID-19 impact: Smart cities in India to get cycling-friendly with Cycles4Change Challenge

6/29/2020 1:18:00 PM

The housing and urban affairs ministry has launched the India Cycles4Change Challenge to support smart cities to implement cycling-friendly projects in response to the COVID-19. In the first phase, 10 cities will be selected and will receive technical support from the Centre and also a reward of Rs 1 crore each. “The portal would be launched on July 10,” Durga Shanker Mishra, secretary, housing and urban affairs, said on June 25 at a webinar to mark the 5th anniversary of PMAY (U), Smart Cities Mission (SCM) and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT). The demand for personalised form of transport has gone up as a response to COVID-19 and as a result several countries around the world are now embracing quick and temporary cycling interventions. Milan is in the process of transforming 35 km of streets to pedestrian and cyclist priority lanes while Paris is creating 650 km of pop-up cycle-ways. Britain has decided to invest £2 billion in cycling and walking in response to the coronavirus. India Cycles4Change Challenge is an initiative of the Smart Cities Mission, ministry of housing and urban affairs, to support Indian cities to quickly implement cycling-friendly initiatives in response to COVID-19, Mishra said. The India Programme of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) will be the knowledge partner of the Smart Cities Mission to assist the Mission in conducting this challenge and guiding cities in developing and implementing their proposals. A recent survey by the ITDP India Programme showed that cycling would increase by 50-65 percent as cities come out of lockdown. This was corroborated by the actual response on the ground with a sudden spike in the use of cycles. “With most of us working from home, the traffic on the road is lesser and has given us an opportunity to reclaim the space for cycling and reduce the pressure on public transportation. This cycling challenge looks at giving cities the knowledge and building the city’s capacity to do quick transformation but across a vast part of the city so that the investment is low but transformation is overnight. People will reap faster benefits,” Aswathy Dilip, Senior Programme Manager, ITDP India Programme, told Moneycontrol. Cycling can be a sustainable alternative to private motor vehicles. Cycling provides equal access to jobs, education, recreation, and other everyday activities for all sections of society – rich, poor, children, women, and others, she said. The challenge aims to help cities connect with their citizens as well as experts to develop a unified vision and initiatives to promote cycling. In addition to creating extensive cycling-networks through low-cost interventions like pop-up cycle lanes and traffic-calmed or non-motorised zones, cities could launch programmes such as community-led cycle rental schemes that increase the availability of cycles to citizens and promote the usage of cycling through public events and outreach, transport experts said. In the longer term, the Smart Cities Mission would encourage cities to convert temporary interventions into permanent. The India Cycles4Change Challenge will have two stages. As part of stage 1, cities would have to register for the challenge after the launch of the portal on July 10. They would have about 10 days for the same. “The aim of stage 1 is to encourage cities to initiate and implement quick interventions and promotional activities to encourage cycling and further develop a conceptual scale-up plan. The municipalities would be given 10 days to register and would then be given three months to apply for the challenge with a concept plan of interventions to encourage cycling in their cities and neighbourhoods. To be able to qualify for stage 2, cities should have piloted at least one intervention to promote cycling," said Dilip. Citizen collaboration will be a key metric in the evaluation of proposals submitted by the cities. The Smart Cities Mission, with the assistance of the ITDP India Programme and a panel of experts, will review the submissions and shortlist the first set of cities which will move into Stage 2. The cities that do not clear the first stage are encouraged to revise their proposal and re-submit for selection to stage 2. The timelines for the submission of the revised proposal will be shared with the cities at a later date, experts told Moneycontrol. The ‘India Cycles4Change Festival’ will be launched in October to showcase the entries of the shortlisted cities as a virtual exhibition. In October-January, shortlisted cities would be hand-held to further develop and commence the implementation of the concept scale-up plan submitted in Stage 1 with inputs from national and international experts. They would be provided support through online workshops to review designs, peer-to-peer workshops to share learnings. Where would the funding come from? Funds for this urgent COVID-19 recovery measure would be made available through the Smart Cities Mission. More details are awaited on July 10.