February 12, 2010 12:01:46 am
A student picks up a bicycle waiting at Mulund station,rides it to Kelkar College and parks it at a cycle stand there,where it is ready for use by the next student.
Mumbai has launched a bike-sharing system,following in the footsteps of Paris,London,Dublin and New York. From Mulund,where the Cycle Chalao movement is now restricted,organiser I-Initiate hopes to spread out across the city.
The start has been encouraging,with 100-odd Kelkar students joining on January 25. This has helped convert 100 habitual users of the rickshaw,a polluting mode of transport,said Raj Janagam of I-Initiate. By the end of the year,we plan to measure the carbon emission we have prevented simply by switching to the bicycle, he said.
Membership is of two kinds: a monthly subscription (like Montreals Bixi model) or a refundable deposit system. We have studied many successful and failed international models and realised that for the system to sustain,it needs to be easy to implement. Our programme has a very low operational cost and involves minimal book-keeping. Since this is a trial launch,we also chose the location carefully. Kelkar College in Mulund East is far from the station and the three lanes leading to it are relatively uncongested.
Pressure on transportation systems is growing in Mumbai,with a population already over 14 million. The city gets 250-300 new vehicles everyday,according to a conservative estimate by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board,member secretary Mahesh Pathak said. Air pollution is twice as high as the limit and noise levels are often over 60 dB. Pathak agreed a slow introduction of non-motorised transport,for at least short distances,would help ease congestion.
Kelkar College students say the project makes sense. Ajit Shinde,second year,accounting and finance,said: We spend Rs 3 for a half-hour trip,much cheaper than taking a rickshaw. We not only save money but also have fun cycling with friends and leave a much lighter carbon footprint.
Helped by sponsors,I-Initiate has bought 30 unisex bicycles,with 20 more to follow soon. It has appointed 24-hour guards. We have also requested the BMC to demark parking space near the station during the day. The MPCB has agreed to endorse our project, Janagam said.
India has been warming up to bicycles since last year. Recently,bicycle enthusiasts took to the street in Delhi a few days before the Copenhagen summit. Mumbai has had several climate bicycle rides but those were so far just a weekend activity.
Janagam looked beyond Mulund: We plan to start it in a Vidya Vihar College and Dadars Ruia Collge soon.
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