Many ride bicycles till their teenage years and then switch over to motorcycles or scooters

Cruising across several areas in the city, one can notice motorcycles and cars everywhere. But how often do you see a bicycle?

Bicycles are slowly disappearing from the face of the city. With the advent of motorised vehicles, sales of bicycles have plummeted.

Schoolchildren riding bicycles is a common sight in urban and rural areas, thanks to the freebies provided by the State government. Some colleges insist on the use of only bicycles by students inside the campus. As a result, hostel inmates in the National Institute of Technology, Tiruchi, ride bicycles.

The bicycle manufacturing industry, withstanding the competition by two-wheeler manufacturers, have resorted to introducing a variety of models — sports model and fancy models. “Previously, there was only stereotyped models. Every bicycle looked alike, almost. Facing a stiff competition, we have changed the models, and it works,” said Suresh Khanna, proprietor of Meenatchi Cycle Mart in the city. Today, the younger generation buys more bicycles than the older ones. The youth learn and ride bicycles till college, after which they prefer two-wheelers, he says. The need for using a bicycle has assumed a new dimension these years. “It is more for physical fitness for many,” he says. In the past, it was a necessity and formed one of the components of household goods. The demand for cycles is for people to keep fit or for their children to use,” he added.

A. Adaikalam Karthan, owner of Cauvery Cycle Mart, has a similar opinion about the gradual slump in demand for bicycles. “Youth in the age group of 11 - 21 buy bicycles as they did not try their hand to drive two-wheeler. The demand for buying and maintaining bicycles would have decreased, but its price has shot up, especially in the past three or four years,” he says. Inflation will be a big factor responsible for the increase. He says the growing demand for two-wheelers, easy finance, and fierce competition among two-wheeler dealers have all led to the fall in the number of bicycles on the road. “Labourers, milkmen, newspaper distribution boys, and petty shop employees prefer motorbikes nowadays,” Mr. Karthan says.

While bicycle dealers describe the changing trends, bicycle lovers are still holding their ground in the city.

“I have been riding a bicycle since my teenage years and shall continue to ride it for as long as possible,” says Nithyanandam (54), a supervisor in a private company.

“I possess a two-wheeler licence but prefer to ride my bicycle because I find it more economically viable especially in terms of maintenance. More importantly, I keep fit,” he says.

L. Sebastian Dipviva (59), employed as a security, loves his bicycle. “Any area, be it Samayapuram, Ponmalaipatti, Thuvakudi , Pudur, or Pulivalam, I prefer to ride my cycle to the area because it is more comfortable as well as economical than public transport such as bus or autorickshaw. In addition, it keeps my body strong,” he says.

He rides an average distance of 8 km everyday, against 30 km during his young age.

It is not only the older generation, but even younger ones who love cycles, especially students who rely on tuition.

“I have been riding a cycle for over six years now. I use it whenever I go to tuition, shops in my locality and other nearby areas. I love riding it especially when the wind blows on my face and the physical exercise makes me refreshed,” said M. Charan (12), a class 8 student of AKKV Arunadu Matriculation School.

While the choice of a few cycle lovers provides hope, it remains to be seen whether the larger part of the population feels the need for bicycles as a mode of transport again.