ALL colours, all gears, all age groups, all genres line the roads north of Madhya Marg, as this lockdown Chandigarh’s beautiful paths and roads have been taken over by a new cult — cyclists. The date, time and spots have been coordinated and donning fancy bottles of water and cycling gear, the riders are all set. If I may say, welcome to the new gehri of Chandigarh. John Kennedy was probably right when he claimed that nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike. But we are sure he would not have imagined that COVID- 19 would have the world realize this pleasure, when we were battling our minds with business and first-class air tickets, fancy alloys on gleaming cars and private charters to exotic locales.
The bicycle is all it takes to fly into the fancy of that world which seems far away. “It’s lovely to see that people are doing more outdoor activities in the lockdown to remain fit physically and mentally. I have started spending a lot of time outdoors and it’s rejuvenating, especially after being in a lockdown for over two months. The idea of getting on a bike in the evening is exhilarating and my entire day revolves around it,” says Guri Sekhon, an aspiring model.
Data may not be immediately available to quantify the rise in sales, but bicycle dealers say there has been a three-fold spike in demand for bicycles in the last one week. A cursory glance of the city’s streets would be enough to ascertain the accuracy of the claim. Ram Swaroop, a salesman at a cycle store in Chandigarh says, “We have never had so many customers or queries for cycles, people have realised that not only is cycling great for health, it’s an activity that many can do together, as there’s not much to do and nowhere to go after 9 pm.”
World over, more and more and more people are discovering the joy of cycling and it is no surprise that by the end of April, the US was facing a bicycle shortage as global supply chains, disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, scrambled to meet the surge in demand. Reena, a mother of two and a homemaker claims, “Going for a bike ride has replaced grabbing a beer and has been used to coax children to step outdoors, while parents are on conference calls at home. My children look forward to the cycling schedule, as my husband joins them whenever he can. We have made it an activity that we indulge in together with our neighbours. The pandemic has had its fallouts, but it has also given us some very meaningful lessons.”
As we seek hope in an otherwise sombre period, the uptake of cycling across the world is a growing trend that has filled us with positivity. In all its darkness the crisis can reveal systems of cohabitation and mobility.
Armaan, a hospitality consultant and a regular cyclist proudly states, “Let us accept the fact that we are very lucky to live in Chandigarh where there are so many cycling trails. It’s heartening to see people finally embrace them and also thank the planning of this amazing city. “A multitude of factors add to the growing trend of cycling, the weather, the circumstances and of course, health. “Cycling can help to protect you from serious diseases such as strokes, heart attacks, some cancers, depression, diabetes, obesity and arthritis and is also a great stress-buster. As gyms remain closed and people are looking for inspiring health activities while still breathing fresh air, there’s nothing to beat the good old bicycle. Dusting the cycles occasionally has been replaced by donning the machines with the latest accessories, as the bike needs to appear like it has been cared for,” smiles Sonam Singh, a gym owner. Cycle your way to catharsis.
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