Revolutionizing Transportation: The Rise of Sustainable Mobility Solutions

Revolutionizing Transportation: The Rise of Sustainable Mobility Solutions

By: Sarika Panda Bhatt, Director, Nagarro & Co-Founder, Raahgiri Foundation

Sarika is Director at Nagarro and Founder Trustee of Raahgiri Foundation. She is leading the Raahgiri Day movement in Haryana. She is also helping other cities to replicate this hugely successful concept in India. Sarika has about 15 years of experience in the field of urban developments, transport, environment and architecture. Sarika was selected as one of the 60 global women leaders in the world who making a change in how we move in out cites.

In a conversation with Women Entrepreneur India Magazine team Sarika shares her views on the indicators used to measure the effectiveness of sustainable mobility initiatives and also talks about the challenges anticipated in promoting sustainable mobility.

What strategies or initiatives must be implemented to promote sustainable mobility?

When we talk about sustainable mobility, there are more elements involved in than just eco-friendly modes of transport. Sustainable means affordable, accessible, efficient, and resilient, while minimizing carbon and other emissions and environmental impact. Mobility describes the systems through which people are allowed access and development that promotes opportunity, freedom, and equity within and between successive generations.

To promote sustainable mobility then, we need to put in place infrastructure that is accessible to all, robust, safe, and has the least amount of negative impact on the environment. This can be done through the design, implementation, and upkeep of an extensive public transportation system, investing in infrastructure for walking and cycling that is accessible to people of all physical abilities, making existing mobility options more eco-friendly and safer through design practices, an increased focus on electric mobility for three wheelers and public transport, making public spaces safer for women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities, and finally educating and raising awareness among citizens about sustainable transportation options.

None of these strategies work alone — they must be mobilized in a holistic and integrated manner with cooperation between the public and private sector. When we expand public transport infrastructure, we must also keep in mind last mile connectivity. Public transport as well as last mile three wheelers can be switched over to electric. All of these steps must be taken with accessibility and safety of all members of society in mind. When we make public spaces safe, we build communities, not just cities.

What challenges are anticipated in promoting sustainable mobility, and how would you address them?

Promoting sustainable mobility faces several roadblocks the largest of which is the immense momentum of the status quo. Our cities have evolved over the years in disorganized and asymmetrical ways — certain parts of the city have been completely abandoned while others have seen a concerted effort at developing transport and mobility options. Funds are not equally distributed to all sections of the city and there is no collective, holistic plan for our cities. There is a huge resistance to change in favor of going on according to our current trajectory. This is not simply a mental resistance but also a structural resistance that is caused by a vicious cycle where cities are built only for private vehicles which causes more people dependent on travelling byprivate vehicles which causes planners to plan vehicle-first cities.

The only way forward is through collaboration and engagement with stakeholders, including government agencies, private organizations, and the community, to create a shared vision and commitment towards sustainable mobility. This has to happen through community engagement and education at the grassroot level and by capacity building at the decision-maker level.

What metrics or indicators are used to measure the effectiveness of sustainable mobility initiatives?

One fascinating (and often overlooked) metric of effectiveness of mobility options is the empowerment and freedom of women. Very frequently, women are limited from moving around in public and entering the workforce when transport is considered unsafe. They are told, stay at home where it is safe”. When transport options are safe and accessible, more women have the opportunity to move around the city, gain economic freedom, and push for their independence.

Other metrics include improvement in air quality, decrease in congestion, and increase in availability and frequency of public transport which finally improve public health. The number of commuters using sustainable transportation modes (public transit, walking, cycling, etc.) can also be compared to private vehicles.

How do business leaders stay up-to-date with emerging technologies and trends in sustainable mobility?

While it is very important for business leaders to take part in industry conferences and keep abreast with technological innovations, the road to sustainable mobility will not necessarily be paved by technology. The way to make our cities and streets safe, accessible, and equitable is by promoting methods of movement we have been using for centuries — walking, cycling, and forms of public transport. It is through focusing on smaller, denser cities that can be navigated without the use of personal vehicles.

It is beneficial for business leaders to build relationships across public-private boundaries with research institutes, governmental bodies, and civic groups among others to promote a collective effort towards sustainable mobility while also keeping in touch with the new research about urban design as well as the needs of the community. For example, right now electric mobility seems like the next big step in sustainable mobility. Electrifying two and three wheelers, public transport infrastructure, and even freight vehicles offers a solution to our over-reliance on fossil fuels. India already has a huge number of electric three wheelers which form the foundation of last mile connectivity. By keeping in step with these technological innovations, leaders can help incorporate them into their work and practices and push for a more sustainable future through robust regulations.

How do you manage your work-life balance as a women leader, and what strategies have you employed to overcome any gender-specific hurdles in the business world?

Every leader has to create a work-life balance for themselves, regardless of gender. It is important to establish clear boundaries between work and personal life to ensure dedicated time for both areas. However, balance is not something that is achieved on a day-to-day basis. There are times when work will require more time and effort than other personal responsibilities. It is about taking a macro perspective to create overall balance. It is important to show up, be present, and give our time and commitment to the things that need it, when they need it. It has been important to me to connect with and empower others on my journey. While the business world can at times be individualistic, creating resilient support networks has not only helped at work, but it has also expanded my experience, knowledge, and world-view. For me, life has never been a race to run alone, it is a long path we take together.