The draft Comprehensive Mobility Plan for Bengaluru dated October 2019 has been unveiled and opened for inputs from the public.
One glance, and you can tell this is Akrama Sakrama for mobility. The document doesn’t hide this fact, mentioning in several places that it is organised to fit in the projects already identified. The tail is wagging this dog.
Nevertheless, I took a specific look at the focus on cycling in the document. Among the 10 strategies that the CMP articulates, there was only one mention of the word NMT (non-motorised transport) – in strategy number 3, ‘Promote multi-modal mobility options’.
Besides, the CMP develops three sustainable transport scenarios, and forecasts the modal share in each. The mode share of NMT was not even considered in the forecasts.
While the strategic intent is lacking, the document does provide some numbers on NMT infrastructure: “548 kms of footpath are proposed to be constructed with 174 kms of cycle track and 103 kms of Tender Sure Roads.”
Proposed cycling tracks come to only 4% of what’s possible
To put this in perspective, we should know there are more than 12,000 kms of roads in the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) area. Of these, BBMP lists 2,000 kms as arterial and sub-arterial roads, which are defined as roads 15 m wide or more.
To build cycling tracks and footpaths, roads have to be at least 12 m wide. This means, within BBMP limits alone, cycling tracks can be built along anywhere between 1500 km and 2000 km of roads. But the CMP plans for cycling tracks only for 174 km of roads, in the entire planning area.
Incidentally, BBMP area is around 740 sq km, whereas the CMP planning area is almost double this – 1,600 sq km. So, assuming that the CMP area would have twice as many major roads as the BBMP area, cycling tracks would have to be built along 4000 km of roads.
This means, CMP’s 174 km-plan gives us just four percent of the cycling tracks that could be possibly built!
The project is supposed to be implemented in three phases. If we look at the timeline for this, Phase 1 from 2020 to 2022 includes absolutely no cycle tracks. Phase 2 from 2022 to 2027 has 100 kms, and Phase 3 from 2028 to 2035 has 74 kms.
So instead of building cycle tracks at the rate of 260 kms per year, we have 174 kms in 15 years!
Bicycle sharing hubs neglected too
CMP focuses on Transit Oriented Development (TOD) to promote mass public transportation. We know that shared bicycling will play a major role in last-mile connectivity within these TOD zones.
The ideal number of Public Bicycle Sharing (PBS) hubs per sq km is 10 to 16. This means, for 1,600 sq km of the CMP area, we are looking at anywhere between 16,000 and 25,600 hubs. Each hub would hold a minimum of 10 shared bicycles; this translates to 1.6-2.5 lakh shared bicycles in the area.
But the CMP has planned a total of 550 hubs over the 15-year period, which translates to just 5,500 shared bicycles. This is only 2-4 percent of the ideal number!
Caveat, in the current PBS model which is private operator-led, the number of bicycle permits issued will determine the supply of parking hubs. Currently there aren’t more than 6000 permits issued, and the operators have dwindled to two in Bengaluru. Nevertheless, provisioning for expansion is important in a legal document like CMP.
What about fund allocation?
Based on the rates chart in the CMP, for 4000 kms of bicycle tracks we should be looking at Rs 6000 cr over 15 years, at the rate of Rs 400 cr per year. Instead, we have a total allocation of just Rs 261 cr over the whole plan period.
Similarly, for approximately 20,000 PBS hubs, the investment should be Rs 10,000 cr. Whereas the budget is only Rs 275 cr. Clearly this is not a city that’s planned for the future.
Under the Paris Agreement, India has a national commitment to reduce emissions by 35 percent from the 2005 levels. With the economic growth rate of the state increasing at 10 percent per year, the emissions are only going to go up.
One way to achieve the target is to move at least 20 percent modal share in large urban centres like Bengaluru to zero-emission modes like bicycling. By failing to even include an NMT modal split in the strategy, the consultants preparing the CMP have totally lost the plot.
They have just taken an initial allocation and spread it around the table, instead of determining the nature of mobility needs and the prioritisation it requires.
From the strategy downwards this is a complete failure in vision, planning and allocation. The time to fix it is now!