Guwahati: On June 25, Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State for Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs announced the launch of ‘India Cycles 4 Change Challenge’. Guwahati is one of the 95 cities across India that has registered for the challenge.
The challenge aims to inspire and support the cities to implement quick cycling-friendly initiatives in response to COVID-19.
Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unexpected and positive change in the way people felt about cycling. As per some estimates, cycling may have increased by 50% in the last four-five months as people took up cycling to improve their immunity and beat the virus.
The challenge, in particular, is set to run in two stages. Stage 1 will run until October 2020, where cities will run pilot initiates such as pop-up cycle lanes, host public consultation, conduct surveys and hold campaigns to promote cycling, which will help develop a scale-up strategy.
Based on the pilot interventions and city-wide proposals submitted, 11 cities will be shortlisted in October 2020 for Stage 2. In this stage, they will be awarded Rs.1 crore and will be guided by national and international experts to scale up the initiatives. This stage will extend until May 2021.
95 cities across India, including Guwahati, have registered for the challenge. Many cities across India like Kohima, Agartala, Aizawl, Itanagar has already initiated steps to engage with the public since July 2020. These cities have initiated various pilot interventions. It is expected that Guwahati city under the guidance of Guwahati Smart City Limited will also initiate measures in soon in the city.
There has been a tremendous increase in the number of cyclists in the city. Many of these new cyclists are expected to continue cycling and a lot more can be encouraged to keep cycling if timely measures to promote cycling are taken as per India Cycles 4 Change challenge guidelines.
One of the key driving forces behind this initiative is Kunal Kumar, Joint Secretary at MoHUA, and Mission Director, Smart Cities Mission. During his tenure as the Pune Municipal Commissioner, he was instrumental in initiating many cycling interventions there.
He has said many times that cities will have to move towards promoting sustainable modes of transport like cycling to tackle the urban problems of pollution and congestion. According to him, public engagement is the key to making these steps successful.
Guwahati was among the top 20 cities in the first phase of Smart City Mission launched in 2016. Guwahati is the largest city in the region should take a leading role in promoting cycling. Guwahati has all the potential to become one of the most cycling-friendly cities in India, as has been said by many visitors from across the country who have cycled here.
The city already has a very active cycling community as well. Guwahati even has its Bicycle Mayor as well including a recently announced first Junior Bicycle Mayor from Guwahati, 14-year-old MTB enthusiast Malav Dutta.
During the pandemic, a lot of people took up cycling to keep themselves fit and healthy. The government needs to utilise this opportunity to initiate the measures as a challenge so that people feel encouraged to keep cycling. The government needs to support bicycle enthusiasts safe and dedicated cycling lanes and related infrastructure.