If public transport is good enough and safe spaces to walk and cycle exist, why will anyone buy a motor-vehicle?
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Because I realized (better late than never) that it is government's responsibility to provide safe, convenient, affordable, accessible and humane ways of commuting for all its citizens. When governments fail on its duty then it hides behind the market forces, and co-opts itself in corporate agenda, enticing citizens to own, borrow, rent and use private vehicles to commute. Forcing people to own their own vehicle (cycle, two wheeler, car, etc) is one of the most normalized form of privatization where government like ours has almost washed away its hands from being responsible for strengthening public transport system good enough so that no one needs a private vehicle.
I refuse to fall prey to the trap of privatization of private vehicle industry that has surely manipulated our government to have policies to favour its markets. Building of big roads is seen as development but constructing useable cycle and walking paths is not, for instance.
If safe spaces to walk and cycle, or accessible and convenient public transport existed then private vehicle markets would become redundant.
Instead we are misled to believe that safe, comfortable and convenient transport is a private motorised vehicle. Is development of infrastructure only to cater to the needs of the rich who can afford a car?
If public transport was strong and there were safe spaces to walk and cycle then why will people spend their life's earnings or take loans to buy private vehicles? Likewise when government education and health are strong, people opt for public services. But when public institutions become weak then private sector gets not only a foothold but a stronghold. Privatization has taken its toll and worst hit are the people most in need and seldom served.
According to Census 2011 data, people who own cars are not in majority but our road infrastructure is mostly geared to make car-owners' life convenient. Car owners dominate our tarmac! If India is truly a democratic nation then our road infrastructure should make commuting convenient for everyone, especially to those who do not own any vehicle. Only 2.7% use cars, 3% use taxi or rickshaw, 3.5% use train, 11.4% use buses, 12.7% use bike/ scooter, 13.1% cycle, 22.6% walk and 30% do not travel (other modes of transport were 0.9% in 2011).
Hope we remember that oft quoted phrase that best city is the city in which even the richest use public transport, and not the one in which all own cars.
Let me share that my senior colleague Madam Shobha Shukla who heads CNS (Citizen News Service) was in Amsterdam and The Hague for a conference last year and she said that while walking she did not have to watch for cars but cycles. I have been fortunate enough to work in cities where most people use public transport such as subways, buses, trams, trains or choose to cycle/ walk.
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