Actor Salman Khan gave it a miss despite being the promised star attraction, but the Sunday’s Tour De India Cyclothon Delhi 2010 sent a message loud and clear. It’s time for Delhiites to ditch their cars and start pedalling up. Cycle clubs, cycling tracks, cyclothon — the humble cycle’s status is now the coolest ‘it’ thing to do.
As Delhiites whizzed on their bicycles through Connaught Place, people cheered from the pavements.
“More and more people are taking up cycling to commute within the city, especially for short distances,” says Nalin Sinha, convenor of Delhi Cycling Club, which has 900 members. “There is awareness about climate change and people are more conscious of keeping their bodies fit.”
“The air’s so fresh and there’s no traffic smog,” says Anirudh Jamwant, a JNU student, who participated in the event.
One advantage of the intensive infrastructure construction work that has taken over wide swathes of Delhi is that exclusive cycle lanes are being built as part of the project. The brand-new pavement in Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, for instance, has tracks for cycling. “The car owners of south Delhi may crib about BRT corridors,” says Rachna Arora, a banker in Kailash Colony, “but its exclusive cycle track is a treat.”
“You can see the emerging of a cycling culture in Delhi,” says Jack Leenaars, founder of Delhi by Cycle, a tour company that runs sightseeing cycling tours in Old Delhi.
According to the Delhi Government’s planning department, in 1991, there were 18,12,967 vehicles in Delhi. In 2004, the number increased to 41,86,309. This made the city riskier for cyclists. But now, there are dedicated cycling tracks.
“The tracks are coming up in those places that are related to the Games,” says film-maker Arpita Sinha. “We don’t have BRT corridors everywhere. If I live in GK-I, then it’s easy to cycle to CR Park. But if I have to go to the other side, I may get run down by a bus.”
Favourite cycling routes in Delhi
* Ambedkar Nagar — Pushp Vihar — Chirag Delhi — Moolchand — Lajpat Nagar — Sundar Nagar — ITO
* Lakshmi Nagar — ITO
* India Gate — Rashtrapati Bhawan (not strictly a cycling track, but the avenue is wide and the traffic is civilised)
* The leafy Shanti Path route, on the side lanes that skirt past the embassies
* ITO — Dilli Gate (Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg)
* Ridge area around North Campus, Delhi University