By Sairam Bollapragada & Rajesh Mohandas

Every increase in motorized speed creates new demands on space and time. This demand of space and time killing the nature in the name of development has led to many adverse impacts.  India may be lagging behind China on several economic indicators but when it comes to environmental degradation, the country has definitely outsmarted its giant neighbour.

Of the world’s top 20 polluted cities, 13 are in India. Air pollution slashes life expectancy by 3.2 years for the 660 million Indians who live in cities. The Ganga and Yamuna are ranked among the world’s 10 most polluted rivers. A three-year analysis of the water quality in 290 rivers by the Central Pollution Control Board said about 66% of the stretches monitored had high organic pollution. It means 8,400 km of these rivers are badly polluted and not fit for supporting aquatic life. India’s cities are in crisis. They are clogged with traffic, choked with pollution, blighted by concrete flyovers, overcrowded, suffer from power and water shortages, are prone to flooding and can at times be almost unbearable to live in.

Smart cities call for smart solutions in an age when carbon emissions and respect for the environment have come to the fore. And very often it is the low-energy, simpler forms of technology that can provide the answers. Writing in 1973, the philosopher and social commentator Ivan Illich stated the following:

“Man on a bicycle can go three or four times faster than the pedestrian, but uses five times less energy in the process. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer of flat road at an expense of only 0.15 calories… Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well… In contrast, the accelerating individual capsule [the car] enabled societies to engage in a ritual of progressively paralyzing speed.”

Much modern urban planning is car-centric. But where is the need for the car if work, school or healthcare facilities are close by. Less need for ugly flyovers or six lane highways that rip up communities in their path. Getting from A to B would not require a race against the clock on the highway that cuts through a series of localities that are never to be visited, never to be regarded as anything but an inconvenience to be passed through en route to big-mac nirvana, multiplex overload or shopping-mall hedonism. The main factor that keeps cycling rates low in many cities is that most people are not comfortable sharing space in streets with fast-moving cars and trucks. Most modern cities are designed for cars. Thus, an intelligent city planner while planning a smart city should assume that cycling, walking and public transport would be the main forms of transport while trying to figure out how to accommodate inefficient, polluting and dangerous modes like private car use.

A humanistic, people-friendly city is first and foremost an accessible city, where mobility is possible for all. Traffic congestion represents a major economic problem because of the many working hours lost each day from sitting in traffic jams and soaring petrol costs. So what’s the solution? The good old bicycle! A growing number of cities around the world are eager to become bicycle cities, as part of a wider strategy to raise their green profile. The key to enabling high levels of cycling is having the right infrastructure, including cycle paths and bicycle parking, but also a number of communication campaigns to promote cycling, educate children and target groups who do not normally cycle.

Currently, 31% of India’s population lives in cities; these cities also generate 63% of the nation’s economic activity. These numbers are rapidly increasing, with almost half of India’s population projected to live in its cities by 2030. Smart Cities focus on the most pressing needs and on the greatest opportunities to improve quality of life for residents today and in the future. With this in mind, planners would create so-called separated cycle facilities “a combination of cycle tracks at the sidewalk level and/or protected bike lanes in the roadways”, Infrastructure, however, is not just about bike lanes associated with that in a smart city there will be opportunity to leverage technology to enable many facets of cycling.

There is already a lot of advancement in the area of Cycle Locks that are connected to your hand held devices that inform you of any possible tampering. Using Bluetooth Low-Energy, Wi-Fi, and an accelerometer, the lock pairs itself with a smartphone to be contextually aware.

Innovation in the Cycle industry has brought in various ways to track your wellness, the cyclist now is able to know the distance driving, calories burnt, heart rate, pulse and few other key statistics, also the cycles are smart enough to store your data on cloud and monitor the improvement in health parameters. There are advanced studies that show how this data help the medical and Para medical faculties in helping one overcome lifestyle disorders of diabetes and blood pressure

Another classic innovation is the Copenhagen Wheel that allows you to capture the energy dissipated while cycling and braking and save it for when you need a bit of a boost. It also maps pollution levels, traffic congestion, road conditions in real-time. Controlled through your smart phone, the Copenhagen Wheel becomes a natural extension of your everyday life. You can use your phone to unlock and lock your bike, change gears and select how much the motor assists you.

Smart pedal and smart chain / belt are two other innovations that leverage the IoT and facilitate bicycle rides for longer distances. If one has to travel from home to office say 20Kms the modern cycle leveraging the technology has made it in par if not as fast as a car to cover the distance of 20Kms at the rate of 60Kmph. So you can reach the destination in 20mins overcoming all traffic

Smart Cycles are great energy savers, the capacitors and auto charge elements of the bicycle are generating energy that can be used back home for daily chores, heating, lighting and many other day to day activities.

What is required by the planners today is to ensure when Smart Cities are built there should be enough infrastructure for Cycling and Pedestrians and this alone will contribute help improve the living conditions, directly impacting fuel costs and wellness of the person on cycle.

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