Three solutions aimed at solving Bengaluru’s traffic woes were proposed at the Mobility Champions programme, hosted in October by Young Leaders for Active Citizenship (YLAC) in partnership with the #BengaluruMoving campaign, World Resources Institute India (WRI), and Let Me Breathe (LMB). These solutions are aimed at decongestion, first- and last-mile connectivity, and non-motorised transport (NMT) infrastructure. The programme, started on July 25, has worked with 12 young residents of the city to suggest promising mobility solutions and garner support from policymakers and citizens.

Mobility Champions is part of the wider ‘Bengaluru Moving’ campaign, which is aimed at highlighting the challenges of public transport in Bengaluru and the need for better first- and last-mile connectivity, while championing bus lanes, NMT solutions, and investment in urban transport infrastructure. In Phase 1 of the campaign, various local and state bodies/stakeholders (DULT, BMTC, Karnataka Legislative Assembly, Bangalore Traffic Police, and Karnataka Forest Department, among others) were involved in different ways (webinars, panels, as mentors and judges, etc.).

Taking note of the burgeoning number of two-wheelers in the city, which exceeds 50 lakh, the Mobility Champions have recommended better utilisation by considering legalisation of bike taxis for building a robust first- and last-mile solution. As a first step, the government could set up a Regulatory Sandbox where new mobility service providers like bike-taxi operators can pilot their services in a limited geography for a specific time period. This pilot can then be assessed to gauge the potential of these services in reducing congestion.

Responding to CB’s queries, the spokesperson of the Bengaluru Moving campaign informs that for developing their recommendations on the need for bike taxis, the champions drew upon the operations of bike taxis in cities such as Gurugram and Jaipur. They also analysed the bike-taxi policies of states such as Punjab, Rajasthan and West Bengal to derive key learnings required for the formulation of a regulatory framework. Studies such as the ones by the Ola Mobility Institute, titled The Power of Two Wheels – Bike Taxis: India’s new shared mobility frontier, and by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Report of the Committee Constituted to Propose Taxi Policy Guideline to Promote Urban Mobility, show the benefits of bike taxis.

Additionally, optimisation of BMTC routes and adding new metro feeder buses to provide first- and last-mile connectivity between IT Parks and metro stations, while maximising bus lanes, are some of the other recommendations put forward. For micro-transit options, they compared Bengaluru to the mass-transit integration systems in Kochi and Delhi. Through this, they were able to showcase the significance of an end-to-end transit model which is reliable for commuters and profitable for the public transport system.

Apparently, walking is the primary mode of commute for a large number of people in Bengaluru. It is estimated that over 28 per cent of all trips in Bengaluru are undertaken by walking. In the wake of the global pandemic, emphasis on socially distant NMT is seeing a resurgence across the world. In line with this, the Mobility Champions have recommended a two-pronged approach which makes streets safe and footpaths a sought-after mode of commute, while encouraging people to choose bicycles over motorised transport. Their solution comprises a combination of better urban design for improved connectivity and a well-spread-out infrastructure for bicycle lanes.  

For a city with a growing population of non-native speakers, information availability at bus stops or on apps in English as well as Kannada has become increasingly important. To aid this set of commuters, the Champions have also put forth recommendations for building a consistent, citizen-centric and integrated pathfinding system for the city – that is, designing information systems so that they are: i) inclusive, to take into consideration the needs of each and every citizen; ii) accessible to all, both online and offline; iii) reliable, where accurate information on public transport is available to everyone to reduce uncertainty and enhance ease of travel; and iv) responsive, where mechanisms are in place to address grievances and ensure safety of travellers.  

As per the spokesperson, there have been some wins for the campaign – including involvement and engagement with various stakeholders (especially BMTC and DULT) and acknowledgement from decision makers.