Alternative Measures…

There were a lot of reactions in the recent petrol hike situation and rightly so. Most of which included mostly cursing the government and so on. I on the other hand have been thinking what if we take this as a blessing in disguise,a warning. Don’t think I have lost my mind. I have a logical explanation to  that statement. ( at least think it’s logical). So read on!

To explain things a little better I am going to give you guys a little bit of history. Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs were two great thinkers of how a city should be planned in the earlier 19th century. Moses changed the look of America and its cities. Newyork  in the early 19th century was a very different sight. You hardly saw a car on the road,no flyovers or bridges. All you saw were hundreds of people on the roads either walking or cycling to their destinations. The road was a playground for kids. The only other mode of transport was the horse cart.  As science progressed the car was invented, and slowly but surely you saw hundreds of them on the road. Suddenly the streets were a mess there wasn’t any traffic control and space leading to jams and accidents. This is when Robert Moses came in and said he had a solution. He started building flyovers and bridges everywhere. As the roads became wider and better, the car also became much more affordable. The sight on the streets changed. You saw less and less pedestrians, no more children playing on the streets. The city was now planned only for cars and not for people.

Jane jacobs was an arch rival of the Moses philosophy. Moses would just break down the houses of the poor people leaving them homeless for the purpose of making his flyovers. Jane’s argument was very simple. She asked a fundamental question , ” We want our cities made for the car or for it’s people?’ .  A city should be safe for its children to walk on the road. At that time Jane was just brushed off by Moses. He said she had no architectural knowledge. (she wasn’t a qualified architect). Though Jane was brushed off at that time today people in the States are going back to what she said and actually seeing her way of looking at cities as right.

This change of perception is not just in the states but also inmost of Europe ,is mainly because of the depletion of natural resources, especially oil and petrol.  The pollution and the vast amount of damages to health is another cause of concern. They have started realising that if do not alter our ways right away our next generations will have nothing left to use. Also cutting down of trees and forests also hills to make roads is hampering nature. Also the streets are increasingly isolated from children and pedestrians.America is still just starting to make changes in the way they build there cities. Though Europe especially Copenhagen and Amsterdam are way ahead of the curve.  They are fighting for the place of the most liveable city in the world.

The Danish architect Jan Gehl is the chief man in making Copenhagen such a people friendly city. He emphasised on a very good public transport system, trains and buses.  Then he gave top priority to bicycles on the road. The roads in the city are the most bicycle friendly. He has turned most of the parking spaces into people’s spaces,as in into markets and pubs. Also in various cities including London. They have a system called congestion pricing. Every car that enters a busy city street has to pay for it. This change has already cut down the use of cars. As they are heavily charged most of the people prefer to use the public transport. In Paris they invented a revolutionary  cycle system called VELIB. There are cycles available besides ever subway station. You swipe your card an take the cycle anywhere you want and park it anywhere they will be taken back to the nearest subway station. This has led to less and less use of taxis in Paris.

The concepts the world is using are very simple. They give top priority to cycles and public transport. Cycle slowly is becoming the coolest thing you can own to commute. It’s most environmental friendly, a good exercise, the cheapest mode of transport and absolutely low maintainence. Making a city cycle friendly is not an easy job. Most of the cities I have mentioned above have took 20 to 30 years to become as good as they have. Gehl says we have to make small changes every year however insignificant they seem and after a period of time they turn into revolutionary changes.

I know we cannot ride a bicycle in our cities. I can especially talk about Pune. We donot have much respect for our cyclists, our cyclists are just not safe. I think Delhi,Bangalore and Mumbai do have a good public transport system. The Delhi metro is really impressive, I almost thought I was in london. Though Pune being such a big city has a really bad public transport system. We have an absolute disregard to our pedestrians population. Really, how does a sixty year old cross the road in Pune, is a big question nobody seems to ask. I mean we are called the retirement city for god sake.  All the city seems to do is build flyovers to accommodate traffic. Our cities are exactly at the stage where Newyork was some years ago. They have realised now that Robert Moses way just not sustainable. It will collapse. We have to learn from there mistakes because if we don’t wake up soon, we are in for big trouble.

The simple truth is petrol will be non existent very soon if we don’t alter our ways. The amount of loved ones we lose in accidents is increasing day by day. We have to start being creative and look for alternative measures. If we don’t all we are going to be left with is the solar energy. There are a lot of NGOs working on making cities more environmental friendly. I think it’s high time we start rendering our help not because it’s noble and they need our help. Its exactly the other way round we as citizens need their help.

Jane Jacob must be looking up from the heavens and surely having a great big laugh, saying I told you so!…..I hope God gives us the strength and the wisdom!   

Sent from my iPad


6 thoughts on “Alternative Measures…

  1. It is an excellent point that u highlighted dear …. increase in prices of our natural resources.. have two sides of a coin.. one which u highlighted well.. and the other is that this severely affects our country;s Balance Sheet or we call it it as GDP … In an emerging economy like India and Brazil , we cannot afford such a hike as we have more than 80% of imports of our Resources… This has a Bad impact on the economy making all basic necessities expensive..

    anyway the way u highlighted it , i think every good citizen of India should start executing his help towards the society for well being of our nation…

    good 1 dear sis ! u think good ! thats best !


  2. A thought to improvement itself is work half done. But a tropical city like Mumbai, Delhi have other problems that European cities don't – Weather.

    Amsterdam as opposed to Mumbai has highest temperature of 22 °C while Mumbai has it at 33 ! Precipitation is another problem Mumbai's average is around 500mm in a month while Amsterdam is just 70mm. 😦

    Public transport is our biggest bet.

    Nice post Aditi! 🙂


  3. Aditi as a Puneite from the late 50s as a teenager I was always on my cycle I have biked from Pashan to Hadapsar thru Camp and then to Yerawada and in the city and so on Pune was a cyclist town The traffic lights were meant for cyclists and the traffic offence in those days was if you forgot to put on your cycle lamp at night I know every nook and corner of the old city thanks to my cycle Mumbai too was trams and buses and trains

    Sadly, the Govt in its desire for development adopted the US model and not the European one In Mumbai,they took away the tram tracks and widened the road for cars.So 1 tram which had 60 people in it was replaced by one car with 2 people In Europe they speeded up the trams, instead. In Pune in the 60s the Vespa ( Bajaj) factory started to turn out two wheelers and that was the beginning of the end of cycles The Punekar had no alternative as the city grew and the city fathers did not bother to develop a rail or bus network and even today the rail project hasnt been approved Blame the people we elect See what they have also done to the rivers and the forts of Pune Population and weather are lame excuses


  4. hey.. i had heard that Pune was one of the 1st cities in India to have a cycle track..tht too for some 100kms..where did all that go??

    the main problem in India is there are so many unions and labour parties that they do not allow their source of income to die..people cant sacrifice one thing to get something better…they want both..


  5. Yes, if we really serious about sustainability in our life, we should focussed on the clean and environment friendly system. That could be an efficient road based public transport system. The system should be peoples friendly and not power friendly (car based). There should be equal road space right of all the road users including pedestrian, cyclist, rickshaw pullers, bus users and so on. This is the right time when we must raise our hand and ask our local authorities for building up road infrastructure which include space for every user otherwise, our coming generation will blame us in putting them in a traffic mess.


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