Jack Leenaars takes people on a bicycle ride to give them a unique street experience of the city
Like every Dutch, Jack Leenaars also loves to cycle. And sharing this passion for the two wheels with the cosmopolitan crowd of the Capital is his brainchild — DelhiByCycle launched this year. The initiative enables curious souls to discover the city through guided tours on the humble means of transport. Actually, Jack might just take offence at that since he categorically stated that the bikes used for the purpose ‘Atlas Sharpshooter' — are quite good looking.
For somebody who rode a bicycle to work, to shop, to familiarise with the environs, getting into such a venture seems only natural. Boredom coupled with the terrific response his initiative received prompted him to quit his job with ‘The Telegraph', the Netherlands. It is his posting as the South Asia correspondent which brought him to India in 2004.
“All over the world, especially in the European countries, cycle tours are a popular concept. The experience is more intense than being in a car. You can reach small, hidden places and is environment friendly. Cycling is a part of the Dutch culture. One of the ministers in Holland also uses a bike to his office and nobody finds it weird. I have been cycling in Delhi for three years trying different routes passing through small lanes,” says the former journalist who lives in the city with his wife, two kids and two pets.
Tours on two different routes — Shah Jahan and Yamuna tours — are conducted every morning from 7:00 to 10. And very soon, he is kicking off a new one on the New Delhi route.
As for the existing tours, while the Shah Jahan tour takes cyclers to the Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Civil Lines etc., on the Yamuna route, after cycling to the bank visitors are taken on a boat ride on the river. “Seventy per cent of them are foreigners, expats. Everybody is surprised to find how easy it is to cycle in Old Delhi. It is a carefully designed route but also when we begin, Old Delhi is still sleeping and when we return, it is waking up. We go to those places which are not usually explored by tourists like Jama Masjid,” tells Leenaars, who feels the unique street experience of his tours has clicked with the visitors. Priced at Rs.1150, it includes a bicycle, guide, soft drink and breakfast at Karim's.
It elicits an exciting response from the locals too which in turn enables a healthy interaction between the cyclers and the Old Delhi residents. Comparing the experience of riding a bicycle here with Bangkok where too Leenars floated a similar venture and the Netherlands, he says, Delhi offers much more action. “You look up, down, left, right , there is something happening everywhere. On a personal level too, I find the country much more accepting and flexible than the Netherlands. The country is flat and so is the mentality of its people but here everybody is different but they are together. I feel I can totally be a part of it,” says Leenaars.
His initiative can also be looked at as an exercise to instil a sense of pride in people who still ride bicycles, lost amongst the daze of swanky four wheels.
For information on guided tours visit www.delhibycycle.com.