How Investing in Transportation Can Aid India’s Poor India is home to several incredibly populous cities. It has the second-largest population in the world, and roughly 34% live in urban areas. Furthermore, about 17% of its population lives in the slums surrounding major urban areas. These cities rely on the labor from the working poor living on the outskirts, and for many of the workers commuting into the city, transportation can be a challenge. In fact, many impoverished workers’ only option is to commute on foot.

There is a lack of reliable transportation in India. This causes a variety of problems such as health risks, time consumption and is not viable for many who are disabled.

Commuting to India’s Populous Cities

India’s large cities are filled with clustered streets and congested traffic. Still, about 37% of the urban population commutes by foot every day. For those who cannot afford a car, or another form of transportation, finding work can be a challenge. In this sense, the city is not inclusive to disadvantaged groups as they cannot feasibly get around for work or any other reason. This type of system makes it increasingly difficult for the poor to make their way out of poverty as constantly commuting by foot limits opportunities as well as causes problems.

Additionally, in most areas throughout the cities, there are no clear lanes for those not using motor vehicles. For transportation in India, all modes of travel share lanes which causes great disorder and danger for commuters on foot.

Poverty and Transportation

Roughly one-quarter of India’s urban population lives below the poverty line. These are the people who are in need of new ways to commute around the city. Several Indian cities have tried to implement a metro or rail system to alleviate traffic issues in their main corridors. However, this solution still does not reach those in need because oftentimes the route does not include the more impoverished areas, and further, the rates are too expensive for most to afford.

However, this is not always the case. The Delhi Metro is the country’s largest metro system and has also been the most successful, carrying around 2.8 million people every day. The Indian government has also been working to revamp the bus system, looking to add up to 504km of new lines for the new Rapid Bus Transit System between 2009 and the now. This process has been greatly aided by allowing private companies to have access to these routes in exchange for providing the resources necessary for this huge project. It is estimated that this initiative will increase ridership from 120 million to 150 million per day.

These changes to transportation in India will be crucial in reaching lower-income areas so that they may commute more easily to work. Transporting people from the outskirts of the city into the center gives them better access to sanitation, healthcare, food and work. There is much potential in a project like this to integrate as many people as possible into the flourishing of a city. Currently, those without reliable transportation are excluded from many of the necessities for rising out of poverty. Hopefully, with these new projects, that can change.

Jackson Bramhall
Photo: Flickr

Projects Increasing Access to Bicycles to Help People and the Environment
Bicycles were invented more than 200 years ago as a form of transportation to avoid reliance on horses; throughout that long history, bikes have experienced varying levels of global popularity. In Amsterdam today, the pedestrian vehicles outnumber people and the benefits of access to bicycles are numerous for both people and the environment.  

Access to Bicycles

Bicycling is both a sustainable and efficient method of transportation. Bikes are easier on existing infrastructure than motor vehicles and can be faster than driving in traffic-heavy cities. They are also emissions-free, which can help decrease pollution levels in cities, leading to reduced harms on the environment and human health. Further, bikes can help reduce poverty as they are less expensive than cars both to purchase and maintain, and serve to increase their owners’ mobility, ability to transport goods and overall physical health.

Increasing access to bicycles is an important step in helping reduce poverty in urban areas. Below are three projects working to do just that, based in the cities that they help.

Portal Bikes — Kathmandu, Nepal

Portal Bikes located in Kathmandu, Nepal, focuses on building three main types of bikes to help make daily life easier. The organization’s first bike is the Portal Power Take Off (PTO) and allows the bicycle to be used for both transportation and as a power machine.

These bicycles can be useful for increasing the efficiency of tasks such as pumping water or shelling corn, without losing their transport ability. The second two styles of bikes have different “long-tail” models that accommodate different weights of goods and people. The longer style can carry more people and material across the city, but both styles are large enough to hold an entire family on a single bike.

Bike Sharing — Bhopal, India

In June 2017, India’s first bike sharing program was launched in the city of Bhopal. This system, based on successful bike sharing programs in European and American cities, has around 500 available bicycles. People can rent bikes from 50 locations across the city after registering and paying for the use of the bicycle on an app.

Reasonable pricing and app registration increases access to bicycles to individuals who would otherwise be unable to pay with a credit card or afford the program; over 25,000 users registered within five months of the program’s launch. The project implementation was overseen by the government of India’s Smart City Mission, a group that hopes to expand bike sharing to 30 more cities across India.

Zambikes — Lusaka, Zambia

Zambikes creates custom bicycles from Zambia’s abundant bamboo plants. The bamboo is grown locally and is lightweight and durable, making the bicycles a popular alternative to traditional metal frames. The company employs about 40 Zambians to sell these bamboo bicycles globally.

Additionally, Zambikes make bicycles and cargo trailers that provide transportation solutions to underprivileged individuals in the nation, enabling citizens to more easily meet the needs of their daily lives. Zambikes also produces bicycle ambulances that allow faster transportation of patients to hospitals.

These bicycles are helpful in both rural areas where there are no roads, and congested urban areas where there’s a need for bypassing traffic.

Overall, further increases in access to bicycles across more regions will help make cities more sustainable. The environment, people and even the economy benefits from the increased mobility and decreased emissions of bicycling as a method of transportation.

– Hayley Herzog

Photo: Flickr

Public TransportationLast month, leaders of Mali and Senegal signed a $2.75 billion deal with the China Railway Construction Corp to provide a 745-mile public transportation railway that will link the nations’ capital cities after its construction over the next four years.

Over 20 railway stations in Mali will be renovated, with upgrades made to over 400 miles of rail lines. This railway project will potentially bring economic development and poverty reduction to areas of West Africa, according to Reuters.

This is not the first time the Chinese have invested in railways in Africa — in 2014, Chinese Prime Minister Li Legian and the Kenyan government agreed to the construction of a new railway line from Mombasa to Nairobi for $3.8 billion, according to BBC.

That same year, the Chinese signed a $12 billion with Nigeria to construct a railway along the West African coast, Reuters reported. When completed, this project will have brought in about 200,000 local jobs while connecting otherwise untapped markets. The World Bank reports that transport infrastructure allows people to access jobs, health services and education and assists companies in maintaining market supply and demand with presumably lower costs.

In 2013, the Dakar Diamniadio Toll Highway was inaugurated in Senegal, becoming the first toll road of its kind in Africa, according to the World Bank. This highway would­­ cut travel times from downtown Dakar and Diamniadio from 90 to 30 minutes, greatly reducing congestion.

Despite the economic growth and increased employment that public transportation can bring to those living in poverty, some challenges still result from their creation.

For instance, public transportation adds another expense to a family budget, cutting the poor’s disposable income as a result, according to the World Bank.

Urban air pollution and safety are other challenges that public transport can bring — for example, how more cars leads to more gas emissions, or how 90 percent of deaths on the road are accounted for by lower to middle-class countries, despite owning just half of the world’s total motor vehicles, reported the World Bank.

These challenges can be met through critical planning as urbanization increases in the developing world, creating more mid-sized cities.

The World Bank wrote, “City planners have an opportunity to design sustainable and inclusive transport systems from the start, leapfrogging more polluting and costly modes.”

The Africa Transport Policy Program (SSATP), a group hosted by the World Bank, have worked to create a framework for improving railway performance, developing guidelines for mainstream road safety and transport governance within sub-Saharan Africa.

Kelsey Lay

Sources: BBC, Reuters 1, Reuters 2, World Bank 1, World Bank 2
Photo: Pexels