India’s cities are clogged with cars that pollute the air. In Bhopal, WRI and partners designed a new bike sharing system that is the first in India to provide segregated lanes and that also helps link to public transportation. The system attracted 25,000 members in its first five months and is inspiring other cities to launch similar projects.
Half of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in India, where vehicle emissions account for almost a third of air pollution and severely impact health and quality of life. Bicycles, which could help relieve this pollution, are often regarded as inferior because they are widely used by poorer people. Bicycle infrastructure is a low priority, which means that biking is often unsafe. Public transportation, which could also help reduce pollution, has a persistent last-mile problem which deters people from using the system because of the distance between stops or stations and final destinations like homes or offices. As a result, many middle-income people opt to drive, resulting in increased congestion, air pollution and traffic fatalities.
WRI India researched public bicycle sharing (PBS) systems to identify key factors in successful systems. Over four years, WRI conducted capacity-building and facilitated data- and knowledge-sharing among existing and upcoming bicycle sharing systems, including the recently launched PBS in Mysore. WRI supported Bhopal Municipal Corporation in planning and designing a system around residential and commercial transportation nodes, aiming to make it easier to connect to the Bhopal Bus Rapid Transit System while improving safety for cyclists. Learning from challenges other PBS systems faced, WRI and Bhopal convened technology suppliers, financing institutions and public agencies to develop an innovative public-private partnership to help ensure the quality, usability and viability of the system.
In June 2017, Bhopal launched India’s only fully-automated PBS system with segregated bike lanes. The system has 500 bicycles and 60 docking stations throughout the city and opened with 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) of dedicated bike lanes, which help increase rider safety and save lives. In five months, more than 25,000 users have registered, more than half of them women. Plans to expand the Bhopal bike lane network to over 50 kilometers (31 miles) in the next few years would create the most extensive dedicated bike path network in India. Other PBS systems, including Mysore’s, are now exploring this feature.