The number of cyclists, passing impatient motorists caught in traffic snarls, is gradually increasing in the city. Many of them say they took to cycling to escape the peak hour traffic. Some describe cycling as a hobby and others say fitness reasons made them ditch their motorbike or car.
One such group of cyclists founded by at least 10 persons is Cycle Katta. Mandar Karve, one of the founding members, said that he met a few friends and others who shared a common passion of cycling.
“We can be described as a group of amateur hobbyists who cycle not as a sport but are passionate about it. We began meeting once every quarter and discussing hostilities faced by cyclists in the city as well as adventure tales,” Karve said.
On Sunday, the group held its fifth Katta at the Maharashtra Nature Park Society in Sion. The event was attended by speakers, including Firoza Suresh who spoke about her initiative Cycle2Work, and Adarsh Patil, Vikas Walke and Shrikrishna Shevale from Pune who spoke about their rides through Dandakaranya, the forest area of Central India.
The meet also saw the participation of Vilas Vaidya who designs cycles and his newest cycle which can be ridden at a time by three cyclists. The group also launched Cycle For Sahyadri, an upcoming initiative which will see a group of 50 ride across the Sahyadri Range in the state.
According to Karve, apart from organising the Katta to have discussions and share adventures, the group also has been involved in advocacy to make cycling easier in the city. For instance, in the past few months, members have studied 12 stations on each of the four lines of the suburban rail network – Central, Western, Harbour and Trans-harbour – to assess whether cycle parking facility can be introduced there. “We realised at many stations, the parking spaces are taken over by motorists. Many who live within a radius of 5 km from the station would prefer cycling but the lack of parking and other amenities create an issue of security,” Karve said.
He added that they were planning to extend their study to all suburban stations to create a database for other cyclists on available facilities. The group also intends to approach authorities for implementation of existing policies which include provisions for promoting non-motorised modes of transport.
The members of Cycle Katta say because cyclists have not had a pressure group, they are largely ignored.
Avanti Darade, a core member of the group, says that in many discussions, they have spoken about the harassment women face while cycling but that is not a deterrent as more women are joining the Katta.
“While cycling in the morning, there are times when men stop and race with women or pass comments. But there are a lot of inspiring stories of women undertaking solo-cycling across difficult terrains for long tours,” Darade said.