Motorized Two-Wheelers in Indian Cities

A Case Study of the City of Pune

Motorized two-wheelers - motorcycles, scooters, mopeds, and similar vehicles - are a growing form of transport in Indian cities. As such, the rise of motorized two-wheelers has significant implications for the future of public transport. This working paper draws on existing literature and explore's the case of Pune, which has one of the highest share of two-wheelers in the country.


Executive Summary

This working paper draws attention to the important and under-explored issue of motorized two-wheelers, a ubiquitous transport mode in growing Indian cities. On one hand, motorized two-wheelers present a challenge because of the serious safety concerns and dependence on personal motorized vehicles that they engender. On the other hand, they are an important transport mode for a large proportion of people in Indian cities who lack access to good quality, affordable public transport options.

Currently cars constitute just over 13 percent of the vehicle population in India, while two-wheelers constitute more than 70 percent. The key objective of this study is therefore, to better understand the role of motorized two-wheelers in urban transport, the mobility advantages they offer, the challenges they present, and possible policy options to manage them.

The authors conducted a thorough review of the literature on urban two-wheelers in Asia and India in particular, a case study of the city of Pune in India, and a review of experiences from cities like Taipei, Taiwan that have implemented successful policies to manage two-wheelers. Original survey data, as well as stakeholder interviews and first-person observations in Pune contribute to an in-depth understanding of the role of two-wheelers in a typical mid-sized Indian city. The paper discusses the effect of two-wheelers on motorization in Asia and India, key factors influencing two-wheeler ownership and use, economic and demographic characteristics of two-wheeler users, their usage patterns and propensity to shift to alternate modes of transport.

The findings show that affordability and convenience offered by two-wheelers have made them a hugely popular mode of transport in Indian cities, a trend significantly advanced by the lack of adequate and good quality public transport systems and non-motorized transport infrastructure in many cities. Data from the Pune survey suggests that the use of two-wheelers can engender a lifelong preference for private motorized mobility, with 80 percent of surveyed two-wheeler users stating that they would be interested in purchasing a car in the future. With the national government supporting the growth of the automotive industry, the market share of private motorized vehicles (cars and two-wheelers) appears set to grow. However, higher levels of motorization also mean increasing air pollution, congestion, road safety risks, loss in worker productivity, and compromised public spaces.

The rapid growth in two-wheeler users has implications for the ridership and use of public transport that loses mode share. Significantly, two-thirds of the two-wheeler riders surveyed in Pune said they used public transportation prior to using two-wheelers. The study notes this apparent co-relation between the motorized mode shares of public transport and two-wheelers. Large metros like Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai with higher public transport shares have low two-wheeler shares, while the converse is true in the case of small to mid-sized cities like Ahmedabad and Pune, which have the highest two-wheelers shares in the country.

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