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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Are two wheelers the right vehicles to transport ourselves?

There was so much of joy going by bicycle. When I was studying in high school, I was one among the few lucky guys to get a bicycle to go to school. Those days in Tamilnadu, India there was a law that only one rider is allowed on the bicycle. However there was no law prohibiting carrying big bundles, sacks or wooden boxes in the goods carrier fitted above the back wheel. My cycle had a big goods carrier to help my dad to bring wooden cases containing tea powder that he used to sell in retail as a part time business.  This part of the machine used to make lot of noise and I do not remember to have used the bell to alert pedestrians.

However my friends like this because they can sit comfortably on that and have a good ride. Though there was prohibition to travel like that, no one seems to worry about and only when we spot a traffic policeman on road the pillion rider used to get down. However the policemen allowed small children to travel as pillion riders. 

The bicycle was such a lovable vehicle and we use to maintain it so well. In those days the buses were not crowded. The bus frequency was so low that we used to have printed time tables of the buses starting from a terminus close by our residence. We boarded the bus only if we had to go longer distance or if we had to go with other family members. 

Two wheelers are very rare. Some people used to have a scooter, some used Royal Enfield motor cycle and some peopled used to travel by mopeds. Very rich people owned cars and being a car driver itself was a proud profession.

Now the scenario has changed completely. Only very poor people do not have bikes. There is no moped these days and even scooters are very few and unlike in the previous days mostly the scooters are driven by ladies. Now that the commercial name scooty has become popular to refer the scooter. 

Whenever I go to big cities in Tamilnadu, I notice that there are too many two wheelers parked on the sides of the roads. Bicycles are very few. The motor cycles consume petrol. They are pretty unsafe to ride. Travelling on motor cycle results in heavy dehydration and some people get back pain. Each motor cycle contributes amply to global warming. Earlier in places like Madurai we can experience shivering cold in the month of December every year. Now it is so warm that we do not feel cool at all. Our laziness to use the bicycle has contributed to this increase in atmospheric temperature. 

Also no one bothers about designing a safe vehicle for the lone ladies, senior citizens and ladies with small children. Going by a bike is absolute rubbish for this segment but still that is the only option available. Going by a two wheeler has become status symbol.

A study by Tamil Nadu Urban Infrastructure Financial Services Ltd says that the two-wheeler population has increased from 14 lakhs to 126 lakhs between 1993 and 2012 .
If we assume that the average distance covered by each two wheeler per day is about 10Km. The amount of petrol consumed by two wheelers per day
In 1993 @ 35km per litre milage = 14000000/35= 4,00,000litres 

In 2012 @ 45km per litre milage = 126000000/45= 28,00,000litres amounts to  Rs21 crores per day Rs.7500 crores per year. At least half of this could be saved if people change the recently acquired value that going by motor cycle is a show off of better status. Also the public transportation in India whether owned by government or private is awfully bad because of poor conditions of vehicle and no discipline in numbers boarding during peak traffic times. The buses and trains are jam packed and almost all buses are not air conditioned. In the literal meaning the public transport system is cheap and the mentality of the public who use this is also to pay minimum ticket fair. To save few rupees they are ready to take up such uncomfortable and unsafe travel. 

At the same time the cost of travelling by two wheeler is about Rs.40 per day for a distance of 10 km if we consider the depreciation of the vehicle at the rate of 15 % per annum ( taking an average vehicle cost Rs.35000/-) and the fuel and maintenance cost @ Rs.2 per km.

Two people or even three sometimes including small children travel risking their life.
So it is felt that we should make use of bicycles for small distances and the public transportation needs great amount of improvement. The improvement is needed not only in India but also in developed countries where each individual weighing just less than 100 kg use a 1250 kg weight car to go to office and shopping. This is colossal waste of energy, resources and space.

Special vehicles with four wheels and motor powered, weighing least, say for instance, less than 200 kg and capable of moving at 40 Km an hour should be designed to transport two people. The   TATA nano car was a good initiative but because of high cost this has not met with success. The car should have a rain canopy and when it is not raining it should be open like a rickshaw. 

The two wheelers are to be replaced with such vehicles and bicycles for safe commutation, better energy management.