Clean transport systems and promoting walking and cycling go a long way in making cities liveable. Almost all cities in India are currently facing a mobility crisis because of city planners' stress on improving road infrastructure for private vehicles, leading to road congestion and high vehicular emissions. The growing vehicles are a major public health threat.

Some cities in India have started new initiatives with funds made available under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) to improve public transport systems. But the misplaced priorities of funding, which is heavily biased towards roads and flyover projects, will increase car dependency. Cities are still a long way from achieving sustainable and clean public transport systems that would induce people to leave their personal vehicles at home and use green commuting modes such as walking, cycling and other non-motorised modes.

Although Indian cities still largely depend on these modes, we need to protect them by providing better facilities. Places like the Netherlands where even the cabinet minister is seen leaving an official meeting on his bicycle and central London where a congestion charge has freed the inner city of private vehicles show the way forward for Indian cities.

To free the cities of the mobility crisis, what is needed is good regulatory practices and mobility management. At the same time reforms are needed to curb vehicular pollution, especially from diesel vehicles, by putting in place an emission standard roadmap for clean vehicle technology to protect public health.

Transport experts and policy makers attending a recent conference on mobility in Delhi shared their insights on providing clean and sustainable transport systems in cities, accessible to all sections of society. The workshop, organised by Delhi non-profit Centre for Science and Environment, debated how reforms can be enabled and accelerated in future and how city mobility can guide investments for sustainable mobility. Some excerpts:

nick   Lessons from London
Nick Aldworth, general manager of Transport for London
“Air pollution is estimated to reduce average life expectancy by eight months.”
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Madhav Pai   Evaluation of public transport systems in four Indian cities
Madhav Pai, director of EMBARQ (India)
“It is necessary that political leaders believe in the ability of bus based transport to solve the mobility needs of a city. This enables the execution of reforms that are essential to ensuring long term sustainability of mobility”
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Mark Brussel   Dutch cities' transition to non-motorised transportation
Mark Brussel, urban infrastructure planning and management expert, faculty member of ITC University of Twente in Netherlands
“Young and old, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, everybody cycles. A Dutch person cycles 1000 km per year, walks 250 km per year. It is the only nation with more bicycles than people—1.2 per person”
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Saurabh Garg   Odisha's experiment with PPP model bus service
Saurabh Garg, commissioner-cum-secretary of housing and urban development department of Odisha
“Fare revision formula linked to price index and fuel price has made the public-private-partnership model, chosen for running city bus services in Bhubaneswar, Puri and Cuttack, financially viable”
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Don   Tax can be an effective tool to curb vehicular pollution
Don S Jayaweera, director general of department of development finance in the ministry of Finance and Planning of Sri Lanka
“Tax is an effective tool to manage demand for vehicle ownership and usage.”
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Anup Bandivadekar   Diesel vehicles can be clean
Anup Bandivadekar, a senior researcher with the International Council on Clean Transportation in Washington DC
“Much cleaner diesel vehicles are possible. Availability of <50 ppm sulphur fuel countrywide opens up the possibility of leapfrogging to Euro VI standards”
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Mike Kilburn   Hong Kong's initiatives to cut emissions has achieved little
Mike Kilburn, Environmental Programme Manager, Civic Exchange, a public policy think tank in Hong Kong
“Around 1,000 people die prematurely because of air pollution every year in Hong Kong and about seven million visit doctors each year for related health problems”
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Kirit S Parikh   Energy efficiency of transport: a policy perspective
Kirit S Parikh, Chairman of Integrated Research and Action for Development and former Planning Commission member
“Unless we improve city structures and efficiency of mobility with good road networks the problem of congestion and mobility cannot be solved”
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Ajay Mathur   Star rating for cars on the anvil
Ajay Mathur, Director General of India's Bureau of Energy Efficiency
“Cars are growing and will grow at a fast rate. The average weight of the Indian car is increasing as people opt for bigger and heavier cars. So there is need for an institutional framework for putting in place a fuel efficiency programme”
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Dani Simons   How New York City reclaimed space from cars for people
Dani Simons, Director Communications of Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), New York, a non-profit
“Facing traffic congestion, New York needed a transportation policy with a new perspective which would help in improving bus system and expanding and improving public spaces in the city and developing bicycling into a safe and local travel option”
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