For a lot of us, childhood milestones were defined by our cycles. The day we got our first wheels, the day we got the extra wheels off from our wheels, the day we crashed into a tree or drove right into a drain. Okay so maybe the last one did not happen to all of us. But you still get the idea. Some of us lucky ones were even allowed to cycle to school, with the bag at the back and water bottle in the front following enough physics to balance us.
Have you then ever wondered where did cycling go from being such an integral and healthy part of our daily lives and become something relegated to the likes of either Lance Armstrong or the local electrician? When did you put away those wheels in the garage and stop getting the air checked and the wheels oiled? When did that cycle become more of a nuisance than a prized possession?
Perhaps the answer lies in the distances we have to traverse to get to our schools, colleges and workplaces. In the perils that roads often pose nowadays, the scrawny cycle comes perhaps at the bottom of the hierarchy of those using the road. While measures such as the BRT corridors in Delhi are meant to promote safe cycling, we can safely say it is still a long way off before we take to our cycles and head for work. Leaving the never ending kilometres aside, cyclists navigate a dangerous road and often are further at danger for the lack of a sturdy helmet.
This still does not mean that we have to sit twiddling our thumbs and toes while watching the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España – which in their own right are very prestigious and sought-after international cycling championships. For the curious, the Tour de France is an annual bicycle race mainly across France. Cyclists from across the globe compete to participate in this and the entire race tends to lasts for 23 days. Lance Armstrong, the man behind the famous yellow Livestrong wristbands developed by Nike, is one of the most well-known faces of the race, having won it for a stunning seven consecutive years. The others refer to similar races in Italy and Spain.
There are a few innovative ways in which you can take to the roads on those two wheels of yours.
The simplest would be to take your cycle and start riding it early mornings. The roads are emptier, the weather lovely and the exercise will be great for you.
Another good idea is to join a local cycling club in your city. You will be surprised by the number of cycling enthusiasts in any city. Take the example of the Delhi Cycling Club, which regularly organises heritage cycle rides around Delhi. If you are interested you could always check out the club’s page at: http://groups.google.com/group/delhicycling?pli=1
You could try starting a cycling programme at your local schools – they certainly have the space and willing participants for it.
While the sport of cycling may have seemed like endangered specie for a while, it seems that now there is a growing market for it. The Murugappa Group has recently launched a bicycle that costs Rs. 2 lakhs, an entire lakh more than the common man’s Nano. This obviously caters to the premium cycle market in India, which though small in base, is growing rapidly. Companies and executives are realising the advantages of having cycles within large corporate complexes. Not only do they keep people active, they also save fuel and keep the environment clean. Handcrafted and equipped with additional features, these bicycles are definitely not for the cost-sensitive. However, if you don’t live in Mumbai, there is a very good chance you know someone who cycles to work, whether it is your chauffeur or your boss depends on what city you’re in though. Cycling to work is finally not something only the relatively poor do.
While today this is just an idea within restricted areas, who knows perhaps one day we in India will also be able to have our version of Vélib – which means bicycle freedom in French – a public bicycle rental programme in Paris.
Till then happy cycling and don’t forget to wear your helmet!