With the monsoon gone, city cyclists are back on the roads, with one rally held on Saturday and two others underway as you read this.
Their numbers are growing too, with cycling groups across the city seeing their efforts to create awareness pay off as scores of new members join in — in an attempt to either keep fit or slash their carbon footprints.
“Our group started in February 2010 with just 10 members,” says Sujay Jairaj, founder of Mumbai Cycling Enthusiasts.
“We used Facebook to create awareness and rose to 30 members a week by April. Now, we have close to 400 members.”
Weekly rides, Facebook campaigns and cyclothon have encouraged a number of Mumbaiites to turn to cycling, even using their bicycles as alternatives to rickshaws and taxis when they run errands or even to commute to work.
“Many of our group members were waiting eagerly for the end of the monsoon so they could get back on their bikes,” says Ashish Deshpande (33), a telecom sales professional from Vile Parle who is part of the Lokhandwala and Vile Parle Juhu Cyclist Club.
Deshpande’s group has seen a jump in numbers too — from 10 members when they started in May 2009 to 160 today.
“More than 70 people turn up for our weekly rides,” adds co-founder Rishu Shah (35).
But Amit Bowmik (33), creator of Cyclists.in — India’s first social networking website for cyclists — believes the numbers would be much higher if Mumbai were not so ‘cycle-unfriendly’.
“Despite the bad roads and lack of basic parking facilities, our numbers are growing… slowly but steadily,” he says.
“It would help if at least our public spaces became more cycle-friendly. We can’t even park our cycles at the mall. We have to leave bikes worth up to Rs 1 lakh out on the street, with just a cable lock to protect them.”
The government must step in, adds Jairaj of Mumbai Cycling Enthusiasts. “Cycling lanes and tracks must be kept in mind while planning future development. In China, MDs and peons alike cycle to work, because they have the infrastructure.”
The lack of infrastructure is holding back even the most enthusiastic cyclists, like Mulund resident and senior business development executive Kailas Patil (25).
“With the rains gone, I’m back to cycling every morning as a workout,” he says. “But I would cycle a lot more — for errands, or even to work — if the roads were in better shape, and if there were safe parking spaces where I could be sure my bike would not be stolen.”
Vishal Sampat (28), a market researcher from Marine Lines, is also an avid cyclist and worries every day that his bike will be stolen — again.
“I lost a brand new cycle last month, at a pay-and-park in Andheri where the monthly fee is Rs 150,” says Sampat, who takes a train to Andheri, then cycles from the station to his office every day. “If it had been a car, it would have been considered a big deal. But in Mumbai, cycle and cyclists get no respect.”