More power to the pedal: Meet Chandigarh cyclists already on the right track | punjab | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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More power to the pedal: Meet Chandigarh cyclists already on the right track

One for the road: As Chandigarh gears up to promote cycling, HT finds out there are many who are already on the right track.

punjab Updated: Apr 26, 2018 11:56 IST
Jagmeeta Thind Joy
Jagmeeta Thind Joy
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
A father helps his son get his balance right at a cyclothon hosted by the Chandigarh administration in the run-up to the Rose Festival in February this year. The city sees an enthusiastic participation during the various cycle rallies
A father helps his son get his balance right at a cyclothon hosted by the Chandigarh administration in the run-up to the Rose Festival in February this year. The city sees an enthusiastic participation during the various cycle rallies (Anil Dayal/HT)

Did you know that Pierre Jeanneret, instrumental in designing Chandigarh along with his cousin Le Corbusier, would often cycle around the city, maps in tow?

Though the Municipal Corporation may have decided to introduce cycle Wednesdays recently, Chandigarh was designed as a city for cyclists.

On the right track
  • Length of the existing cycle tracks in UT: 110 kms
  • Tracks to be added(by July): 70 kms
  • Total cost of the project: Rs 25 crore.

“There were times when Jeanneret would cycle all the way to the Ghaggar river and get large stones from there much like Nek Chand,” shares Deepika Gandhi, architect and director, Le Corbusier Centre, Sector 19, Chandigarh.

The city, she points out, was meant to be pedestrian and cyclist-friendly. “There is a V7 road and later V8 which was provided along all major roads and was dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists,” explains Gandhi.

Pradeep Bhagat, former principal, Chandigarh College of Architecture, agrees. “It’s perhaps the most inclusive of cycle tracks in terms of design compared to any other city,” says Bhagat, who also cycles around town.

To office, they cycle

While Chandigarh may have been designed for cyclists, Mohali and Panchkula are also not far behind. Take Naman Attri, a senior software engineer with Quark, who can be seen pedalling his way to the office in Mohali every morning. His backpack strapped on, helmet in place, he makes his way through traffic at a steady pace. Around him, cars and two-wheelers zip past speedily. “I am never late,” Attri smiles to say. He’s been cycling to work for four years – two years now to QuarkCity - and he wonders why more people don’t follow suit. “It’s only a bit tough in the start. Cycling can’t be forced. It has to become a part of your daily routine,” says Attri who lives in Sector 68, Mohali.

That’s something Dr Samrat Ghosh agrees with. The assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Sciences at IISER, Mohali has made cycling a part of his life for nearly a decade now. “It’s the best way to get your daily dose of exercise and beat all the parking blues,” quips Dr Ghosh who can be seen making his way around campus in his work clothes but always with a helmet on. “A lot of people boast about having two cars but I like to flaunt my two bicycles,” says the professor who also rides out of campus to run his errands.

The recent order by Chandigarh Municipal Commissioner Jitender Yadav making Wednesdays a no-vehicle day at the Municipal Corporation office might have received mixed reactions but those who have been cycling to work for a few years now feel that’s the way ahead. “A collective effort will make it work. If more people take to cycling, others will be less inhibited,” feels Mohit Sharma who lives in Sector 38 West and works in Sector 10. Cycling has been a part of his daily routine since college days. “It was a natural progression when it came to work too,” says Sharma who feels those who live far and can’t cycle to work can choose to cycle for shorter routes around home.

So, often on a working Sunday, Panchkula-based Megha Tretha hops on to her cycle and heads to work in Chandigarh. “Personally, I hated working out in a gym as I found it claustrophobic,” says Tretha, who has made cycling a part of a fitness regime. “I cycle early mornings at least four to five days in a week. There are a lot of support groups now in Chandigarh where you have like-minded people who love cycling,” says the 27-year-old, who feels a long ride early in the day peps her up for the day ahead.

“Cycling brings back the child in you,” says Misha Brar37, a teacher who works out of home in Sector 46. Brar is a familiar face on the city’s cycling circuit and has won many times at local cyclothon events. Brar, who rides a state-of-the-art carbon bicycle that costs Rs 1.75 lakh, says, “I would recommend cycling to everyone as it’s the perfect way to unwind and stay fit.”

Carry an extra set of clothes, stick to the left lane, maintain a steady pace, say these office-goers and always make sure you have a helmet strapped on. “Initially, you will find it tough but soon you will enjoy it. For those like me who have sitting jobs and long hours at the desk, this is the easiest way to get exercise,” sums up Attri.

The Cycologist Brigade

Long before official cycling tracks came into place, cycling enthusiasts in Chandigarh were already getting together for rides and bonding over bicycling. Here are some of the active clubs in Chandigarh that offer a lot of support and organise regular events as well. All these clubs are active on Facebook and WhatsApp. They regularly organise events and meet-ups and there are no membership fee.

Chandigarh Cycling Club

It is one of the largest groups with members from across the tricity. The club, which has been in existence for a decade, has a mix of beginners and experienced riders across all age groups. Apart from organising annual cyclothons, the Club actively holds long weekend rides as well. “Cycling is a very grounding experience. It makes you see your own city in a different light. We suggest families take to it together and help keep pollution levels low,” says Gurjusjit Singh, president, Chandigarh Cycling Club.

Riders of the Storm

If mountain terrain biking and trail-hunting is your thing, then this is your club. The club has a large number of members who are into competitive racing and race at events around the country. “If you enjoy finding new trails or like training hard where there are no roads, then this is the club for you,” informs Balram Kaleka, member of the core group, as he lists the minimum requirements. “You should have a Mountain Terrain Bike (MTB) and tubeless kits are important as there’s no fun riding if you’re fixing punctures half the time or worse walking back home. And last but not the least, you should love the outdoors,” says Kaleka. The Club organises MTB races, usually on the first Sunday of every month.

Panjab University Bicycle Lovers Club

It is an initiative by the students of PU, led by founder Gurjinder Mogi, a Phd scholar, four years ago. It endeavours to promote complete cycling culture in the varsity to bring down traffic in the campus. “We have been instrumental in getting cycle parkings installed outside many hostels in PU. The campus is ideal for cycling , to encourage students we regularly post their stories on Facebook and bring them on one platform,” informs Mogi, who feels cycling should not be a one-off event. “Let’s look beyond rallies. cycling is a part of life,” he says.

Track and Trail Chandigarh

It is an initiative by Kinshi Bikes, a premium bicycle store in Sector 8, Chandigarh, to boost healthy cycling culture within tricity and help train champions. The group motivates young riders and organises races occasionally. Their Facebook page works like a support group and has regular posts about the latest in cycling world, how to get started, information about new launches and gear.