Salman Khan is addicted to cycling. No wonder then that he pedals to his film sets. For him, cycling is the best way to evade the walking stick during old age. He says, “Cycling keeps me fit. Plus, it makes the legs strong.. so when I am older, I won’t a stick.” Arshad Warsi also carries a folding cycle to every location.
Cycling is fast becoming a way of life for Mumbaikars. With locals demanding dedicated bicycle lanes and forming cycling communities online, the city cyclist has finally arrived.
Mumbai is home to cyclists.in – India’s first social networking site exclusively for cyclists. With more than 400-plus members, the site has spawned multiple groups and blogs, that together help keep Mumbai’s cycle community connected.
Apart from planning weekend rides in and around the city, the site also lays the grounds for organisations to get together for drives that benefit the environment, like the Critical Mass Cycling Movement. The cycling movement, held in more than 300 cities including Mumbai, promotes non-motorised transport.
Spurred on by it, members like Anoop Ranjan have taken up cycling as their preferred means of transport. Rajan cycles daily, from Malad to his office in Andheri and back.
He says, “I work with an NGO called HOPE in Thane. We educate kids and work on environmental issues. One day I asked myself what I was doing to make a difference? That’s when I decided to cycle to work.”
Not all members agree with the groups’ motto, ‘Take back the roads’. Leela S, content manager and member, believes that it makes more sense to have more practical aspirations. She says, “If today we start saying that the road belongs to us, then tomorrow buses, pedestrians and motorists will also come forth with the same arguments. Let’s face it, Mumbai’s arterial roads like Cadell Road or Linking Road, aren’t wide enough to make the idea feasible.”
All the members agree that where roads are broader, a separate cycle lane is a must.. not only to reduce environmental damage but also to boost a healthier lifestyle.
Incidentally, Mumbai had experimented with the idea of creating dedicated cycle lanes before. A few years ago, the Thane Municipal Corporation tried to implement the project — a first of its kind in India. But the track was soon forgotten and hawkers encroached upon it.
Still, there is hope. Organisations like the Open Bicycles Project plan to reintroduce a similar venture in Bandra.. this time backed with research and cooperation from local authorities. To aid their mission, Colin Christopher and Faizan Jawed conducted a survey in Bandra West that looked at commuting methods and vehicles.
The research showed that the majority of trips in the area were short, with an average length of one and five kilometers. Conclusion: The high volume of short trips indicated that a great potential for the increase in bicycle usage.
Armed with the findings, the Khar Bandra Santacruz forum (KBS) has come up with a plan to create designated cycling tracks in the Khar-Bandra region. The KBS is looking to create cycling tracks over a 30-km stretch covering areas like Carter Road, Bandstand, Bandra Reclamation, Khar Road, Chimbai and some bylanes in Santa Cruz.
Says Anandini Thakoor, chairperson of the Khar Residents’ Association, “Starting with Carter Road, we hope to cover the entire city eventually. There are several organisations that believe in the cause and we will continue to keep up the pressure till the project is successfully implemented.”
The forum hopes that permission for a separate cycle track will be granted on the soon-to-be-opened Bandra-Worli Sealink, thereby widening the reach of city cyclists. Currently, the forum has managed to get an all clear from the traffic authorities for such a lane at Carter Road and hopes to begin work soon.
Thakoor adds, “The authorities have been very helpful. In fact, at a seminar I was asked if such a lane could be started in Kurla too.”
The forum is also showing anyone interested two films about similar ventures that have been successful in cities abroad.
But even as plans to have dedicated cycle lanes gains momentum, a cyclist’s lifeline, ‘the hire- a- cycle’ shops, are slowly disappearing from the cityscape. Manjit, of Sardar Cycles, Mahim, laments the lack of demand for cycles. “There was a time when kids queued up outside my shop.. for purchase and hire. Not anymore.”
Manjit had to stop letting out cycles for hire. Others like Subhash Cycles at Wadala have gotten into the repairs business. Manjit says, “Lack of demand coupled with recession may sound the death knell for cycle makers and shop owners.” Though he doesn’t take in used cycles, he informs that there are often inquiries for places that buy back old cycles that the kids have outgrown.
It’s at times like these that a venture like the Bicycle Project comes to the rescue. The brainchild of Hemant Chhabra, his wife Sangeetha and Simona Terron, it was started with the intention of putting old cycles to better use.
The trio scout the suburbs for unused bicycles. They can be bought for as little as Rs 50.
The trio buys them from the societies. The bicycles are repainted and redesigned professionally by designers Neil Dante, Suresh Bhandari and Dian from Italy. After the Malegaon cycle blasts they submit details of each bicycle as a safety measure.
These recycled bicycles are then donated to tribal children. This ensures that the cycle continues to wheel long after it has been discarded by its original owner.