Australian environmental activist and professor of sustainability at Curtin University in Perth, Peter Newman loves Indian streets. He shares his experience of Indian cities with Arushi Mittal
What are your observations about Indian cities?
I come from a school of thought that likes cities, and I find an Indian street fascinating. There are so many different users: bullock carts, food vendors, beggars, cyclists and cars. I can see how cars are a necessary part of city life but they must not dominate it. If you allow cars all the time, the city becomes dysfunctional very quickly. And my sense is that Indian streets have reached optimum car use. There is no room left for the car.
Every ordinary Indian can see that we need new solutions. But every traffic engineer is still trying to put in the flyovers that speed up traffic on one side even if everything grinds to a halt again on the other side.
How has your experience been in Pune, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi?
My overall feeling is that Indian cities are ready for a change. People recognise the fact that there are too many cars. But it is still a problem getting people out of cars. I am committed to finding solutions and that is why I am coming back next year to try out a few ideas to extend public transport in cities like Pune.
Are Indian authorities prepared for the change?
Authorities are informed about sustainable urban transport, electric vehicles, using natural gas as fuel and the need for public transport in Indian cities. So, there is a sense that we have to try modes other than the car and also ensure they are used by everyone.
What should we focus on: metro rail system, other non-motorised transport (NMT) or buses?
You can’t make a metro work properly unless you have got very good pedestrian facilities around the stations. Getting attention for NMT is the main game.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.