World Bicycle Day: Pedalling towards a better future post Covid-19?
Unlockdown 1.0 envisions bringing our lives back on track, but the possibility of commuting via public transport still remains a big question. During the lockdown, it’s cycling that came back to the fore as a means of commute. Quite a few Denizens have already turned to cycles with the dual incentive of benefitting both the health and the environment. In fact, India’s Bicycle Mayors, associated with an Amsterdam-based social enterprise called BYCS, have been promoting #ResetWithCycling campaign, to urge everyone to turn to cycles, even in the longer run.
”There is a reason that more than 40 cities across the world have prioritised cycling. At a time when crowded public transport is a risk for the spread of virus in urban areas, safe clean personal transport like the bicycle is being viewed favourably by the public,’’ says Bangalore Bicycle Mayor, Sathya Sankaran — who started the campaign with Dr Arvind Bhateja.
“Cycling will pick up post lockdown at least for the groups who cannot afford private transport amid the unavailability of public transport,” says Felix John, a Chennai bicycle mayor. And Bicycle Mayor Sarika Panda, in Gurugram, adds, “Cycling is one vehicle which already has social distancing inbuilt in its usage. There is no reason India cannot capitalise on this aspect.’’
John has written to Tamil Nadu police, Chief Minister, and traffic commissioner, asking for better infrastructure for cyclists. And there’s no denying the fact that public interest in bicycles seems to have spiked during the lockdown. Delhi-based Vayam Sood, a senior consultant with a multinational, says lockdown made him turn to his old hobbies including cycling. “The moment I could, I went and got myself a new bike, and it’s difficult to explain in words how positive a change it has brought to my daily schedule. Now I jump out of the bed everyday at 6am; plan my route a day in advance and have also met like-minded riders, with whom I’ve started going on group rides,” he says adding that cycling saved him from “endless hours of binge watching”.
Pandit Bishal, a Delhi-based civil engineer, has plans to cycle to work now. “My cycling has transitioned from a hobby to a fitness regime and will soon be a part of my daily routine,’’ Bishal shares. But, the challenge is adequate infrastructure in urban cities such as “Delhi where roads spell death for cyclists”, says Mikin Kaushik, a teacher and social worker in Shahdara. He opines, “Pop-up bicycle tracks are a need of the hour, and Delhi can begin its journey towards becoming a cyclist-friendly city by restricting certain areas as walking and cycling zones only. Industrial areas need to provide for cycle-parking facilities to see a spike in footfall of cycle commuters.”
“Bicycling is a simple solution to the world’s three complex problems — environmental, health and congestion issues. Cycle has to be seen as more than just an exercise medium,” says Nikita Lalwani, Bicycle Mayor for Baroda, adding, “Cities need to rethink and redesign streets to prioritise cyclists and pedestrians. They can start with making school and college cyclable and walkable with networked tracks. Cities can’t risk flourishing of private vehicles in the wake of Covid-19 as it will have more disastrous impact,” adds Lalwani.
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Author tweets @mallika_bhagat