Chennai Cycling 2013 on March 3 is all set to attract 5000 participants eager to promote this eco-friendly mode of transport

Fossil fuels cost dear. Electricity is in short supply. The ride is definitely bumpy for motorised vehicles running on petrol or battery packs. Isn’t this the right time to switch to bicycles, which bypass both? Why aren’t our roads overrun with these non-polluting, fitness-promoting two-wheelers? Why aren’t there dedicated lanes for cyclists? A media briefing on Chennai Cycling 2013 highlighted these concerns.

In a short video, actor Karthi Sivakumar, brand ambassador of the March 3 event, Hercules Roadeo Chennai Cycling 2013, which is expected to attract 4,500 to 5,000 cyclists, professionals and amateurs, touched on the desire of the cycling community: a separate lane for cyclists on OMR and having a section of the Marina cordoned off for cyclists, walkers and runners on Sundays. No rehearsed lines, these. Karthi had apparently volunteered to support this initiative, having first discovered the joys of cycling during a foreign tour.

According to S. Radhakrishnan, secretary, Tamil Nadu Cycling Association (TNCA), concrete steps in this direction are being taken. “A proposal has been sent to the Government for creation of lanes of four to five feet width on broad city roads,” he said.

Karthi and Radhakrishnan had more than fun rides in mind. They were making a pitch for utility cycling. In fact, Karthi emphasised cycling as an alternative mode of transport. In these times of easy loans and EMIs, when cars and bicycles have acquired greater appeal, this may appear far-fetched. But, going by the testimonies of people who are into cycling by choice, it is eminently workable. Not waiting for any infrastructure to be put in place, they have set out on their cycles.

Writer-teacher-activist Nityanand Jayaraman, whose campaigns have set benchmarks in environment activism, ‘cycles the talk’. He lives in Besant Nagar and 70 per cent of his total travel falls within a range of 6 km, and is done on what he calls his ‘old horse’, a Hercules.

“I go North, up to Santhome; South, up to Valmiki Nagar; and West, up to Guindy,” says Nityanand, who holds the present traffic situation and the attitude towards cyclists responsible for the lack of a cycling culture in Chennai. “A cyclist is not seen as a legitimate claimant to road space,” he says. “The smaller you are, the more illegitimate you are perceived to be.”

The level of respect for cyclists varies from region to region, that is, from bad to deplorable. “I will give the ECR a miss. Even if you are on a motorcycle, you don’t command any respect (on this road),” says Nityanand.

Riding a bicycle on the ECR, especially during the weekend, when this road is ruled by fancy machines meant to flaunt power and opulence, is undoubtedly an act of bravery. There is one brave man: Sharath Nambiar, serving DakshinaChitra on the ECR, who chooses to ignore the snooty speed at which motorised machines pass him by, as he cycles daily to work. But he invariably has the last laugh: on the 26-km journey from his house in Madambakkam to DakshinaChitra, he beats the biggies, who are trapped in the knots of rush-hour traffic on the Tambaram-Velachery Main Road and at the Sholinganallur junction, OMR.

“No parking fees. No fuel bills. No traffic woes. Remarkable fitness,” is how Nambiar describes his cycling.

And he will surely agree with Nityanand, who puts it this way: Above all, cycling is fun, no matter what you do it for.

Fact File

Event: Hercules Roadeo Chennai Cycling 2013

Organisers: Tamil Nadu Cycling Association, CRX Sports, and Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu.

Venue: Kamarajar Salai (to be cordoned off)

Date: March 3 (Sunday)

Ride Timings: 7.00 a.m. to 11.30 a.m.

Categories: Men’s Pro Race (40 km), Celebrity Lap and CXO ride (4 km), Kids Ride (4 km), Akshaya Green Ride (8km), UWC - Ride For A Cause (8 km) and Chola Amateur Ride (24 km).

Expo Dates (YMCA): March 1 and 2 (for collection of chest numbers and helmets, mandatory for all participants).

Registration: can be done at chennaicyling.com or at BSA Hercules stores and Café Coffee Day outlets.