Written by Maheep Dhanoa
The chief ministers of both Haryana and Punjab took to their cycles on the World Bicycle Day on Monday. The city, which has arguably the longest cycle tracks in the country – its goal is to lay 180-km-long tracks for cyclists – woke up to find scores of cyclists at the Sukhna.
While cycling to work is yet to become mainstream, there are several clubs and individuals in the tricity that are trying to nudge the people to get out of their cars to pedal for both work and pleasure.
Dr. Sunaina Bansal, a cycling enthusiast and founder of Cyclegiri, actively rides her cycle to work while also encouraging her colleagues and others to do the same. She takes part in the organisation of events that celebrate cycling along with other social or environmental issues such as “women’s only ride on women’s day, ‘no car day, earth day,” etc.
Cyclegiri also promoted cycling to work in collaboration with other organisations such as Ivy hospital. Dr. Bansal wants to combat the hesitation that people feel in cycling to work. She believes that those who really want to cycle will not let the weather come in their way, although, afternoon cycling should be avoided. Despite its few shortcomings, she feels thankful for Chandigarh’s cycle tracks and is happy that the administration has worked for its betterment.
PU Bicycle Lovers Club
Gurjinder Singh Mogi, a founding member of this club at Panjab University, feels that although cycle tracks in Chandigarh have improved, getting cyclists to the track is another matter. PU has been trying hard to make the campus vehicle-free and promote cycling but only a handful of people use bicycle. Mogi says this is largely due to lack of awareness about the benefits of cycling and also the ease of pedaling around on the campus. “We can counter this by making cycling a regular practice. ‘’He rued that many people in the tricity don’t use cycles because they feel it’s the vehicle of the poor. “They must be taught about the health and environmental benefits of cycling,’’ he said.
Chandigarh Cycling Club
Gurujusjit Singh, one of the founding members of the club that was set up in 2008, says their main aim was to promote cycling in the tricity. “With lot of new wealth coming into the tricity, people have become increasingly fond of parading their wheels. We have been working to make pedaling around the city more fun.’’
Every year, Singh himself goes car-free for a month during which he pedals everywhere. The cycle tracks in Chandigarh, he says, are not uniformly laid. “They are very good at some places and not so good at others but the project is a great beginning.’’
Singh also runs a Facebook page with over 4,500 followers, and holds cyclothons from Chandigarh to Siswan, Kasauli and even farther away. He says he has seen an encouraging rise in the number of youngsters pedaling around the city. The Sukhna Lake, he says, is a great place to see the surging numbers of cyclists. “We had posted a message on our FB page and almost 80 people turned up at the lake on their cycles,’’ he said.
‘’It’s a great investment. It is better to buy a cycle worth Rs 30,000 than spend the sum on a gym subscription.’’
Rakesh Mohindra, UCI International Mountain Bike Referee
Rakesh Mohindra has noticed that traffic poses a great problem to cyclists and although he has attempted to amend the same through the administration, there has been no definitive plan from their side. He says, “The administration is spending a huge amount on the creation of cycling tracks but there is no definite plan to promote cycling in the country. We were also promoting cycling as a sport but the administration has failed to create any infrastructure or provide aid for the same.”
Punjab Bikers Club
The husband-wife team of Abhishek Kashyap and Saran Preeti set up the Punjab Bikers Club in 2014 to promote long-distance cycling in the north. Preeti says cycling on highways is not dangerous. “It is as risky as driving a car but cyclists must wear helmets besides taking other precautions. The first woman from Punjab to ride the Manali-Leh-Khardung La circuit, Preeti says Chandigarh is a great place for cyclists.
So, go and take your cycle for a spin. But do ensure that you wear a helmet, use a torch and reflective gear in the dark and most importantly, hydrate yourself, especially in this heat.