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Friday, Oct 18, 2019

Punekars strive to turn the wheels of health

Pune Cycle Pratishthan has been spreading the message of a clean environment, health benefits of cycling and, most importantly, social awareness on various subjects through their cycle tours for past 23 years

pune Updated: Mar 17, 2019 16:29 IST
Anjali Shetty
Anjali Shetty
Hindustan Times, Pune
Members of Pune Cycle Pratishthan near Karve road in Pune
Members of Pune Cycle Pratishthan near Karve road in Pune(Pratham Gokhale/HT Photo)
         

Pollution, pollution, cycling is the solution — is one of the many slogans that members and participants of Pune Cycle Pratishthan (PCP) chant during their monthly cycle rallies. The group aims at promote cycling and encourages people across age-groups to take it up consciously for a clean and green environment.

Formed in 1998, Pune Cycle Pratishthan was an idea that took shape when like-minded cycle enthusiasts met. The oldest member yet youngest at heart is 79-year-old Dattaraya Mehendale. Mehendale has been cycling within the city since 1994. He says, “My sister and her family cycled from Ooty to Pune in 10 days in 1994. I was completely blown over by their initiative. That is when I thought, if they can do it across states, I can definitely cycle within the city.” Since then, Mehendale is an avid cyclist. “Back then, I would require an hour to travel to Pimpri from Nal Stop and even today it comes up to the same.”

Mehendale starts his day at 4.30 am and cycles for 20 km every day. On Mondays and Wednesdays, he is joined by other cyclists. The core members of PCP meet often and every special rally takes off from secretary Nandkumar Bhatewara’s store in Kothrud. Recalling their first long distance rally, Bhatewara says, “We went on our first Safe Motherhood Bicycle rally from Pune to Hyderabad and since then we have been holding such an event every year. We charge a lifetime membership of Rs 500. We don’t approach sponsors or brands. We are in this for the love of cycling. We only want to spread awareness on the benefits of cycling and urge people to take it up.”The annual rallies have a new theme every year, but the idea remains the same.

Staying fit and fresh

Dr Shirish Patwardhan, Anand Athale, Dr Mukund Kajale, Pradip Bhawalkar along with Nandkumar are discussing their next plan of action in Kothrud. Patwardhan, who has been cycling since 1996, shares that the benefits of cycling is not limited to an exercise. “It keeps you young forever (smiles). During interstate cycle rallies, we also organise street plays and awareness drives to educate people on issues ranging from anaemia, skin diseases to safe motherhood,” says Patwardhan.

Kajale was advised to undergo an operation for his back and knees, but he claims that regular cycling and following a healthy lifestyle helped him avoid the same. “As an academician, I never found time to cycle daily. However, of late, I have realised its benefits and it has done wonders for me. I was introduced to the group by Athale when we met near Parvati hills. I noticed his group’s name on the t-shirt and that’s how we got talking.”

At 70, Athale is glad he cycles everywhere possible. The farthest he has cycled from Pune is to Kolhapur, a distance of 240 km. “The idea is to promote a clean environment and spread the message of a pollution-free city. We go in for rides between 6 am-9 am and in the evenings post 9 pm. I hope parents gift their young children cycles instead of bikes.”

For 18 years, Bhawalkar has been cycling in the city and his ride used to be from Market Yard to Hadapsar for the first 14 years. “When I turned 46, I started riding to my workplace in Hadapsar which was 12 km one way. Over the years, I noticed how it kept me fit and, hence, continued to do so even after retirement.”

Quick tips

Dr Patwardhan urges people to take up cycling for shorter distances. “I am not asking you to make a complete lifestyle change. However, you can start with small distances. Also, after cycling, don’t eat as you please. Listen to your body, after a rally, your body needs to rehydrate, drink enough water, don’t stuff yourself with food,” he says.

The members also suggest that one can begin to cycle as a recreational activity and gradually move towards participating in rallies and doing it for fitness.

The challenges

Designated spaces to ride cycles, cycle tracks and parking spaces are definitely some of the major challenges faced by the members. “I remember Pravisingh Pardeshi, former Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) commissioner, was very helpful. He would visit spots and ensure the cycle tracks were in good condition. Sadly, after he left we have had no one take these issues seriously,” says Nandkumar.

He said parents are not ready to take responsibility of cycles. “I remember, when we distributed cycles to underprivileged students, who had to walk a long distance to school, their parents were sceptical. They wanted to know if we were ready to take responsibility of the kids. Hence, we stepped back from such donations.”

First Published: Mar 17, 2019 16:29 IST

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