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HEALTH ON TWO WHEELS Cycling is an eco-friendly way to fitness
HEALTH ON TWO WHEELS Cycling is an eco-friendly way to fitness

Cycling is not just fun, but a purse-friendly way to get into shape

The greatest joy of parents after seeing their kid stand up must be watching him/her get onto a tricycle and pedal away. Soon, the kid makes its wobbly entry into two-wheelerdom, and even as mom screams, takes hands off the bars and rides into cycling bliss. Going to school on it isn't the same, but that's when he/she collects rich stories of bicycle cliques, races, doubles, punctures, loose chains, cycle shops and greasy hands.

Look what happens to us as adults. We kick off the ladder we grew up on. Motorised, poison-spewing vehicles fill our canvas, the bigger the better. And we forget the joys of cycling — to work or for leisure. Ask Gokul, software pro at Fidelity Information Services. He's on his bicycle most of the time, backpack hitched to his shoulders. “I strongly believe riding a motorbike/car within a five km radius is unjustified,” he said. “I've been trying to persuade colleagues to go pedalling.” They do make approving noises, “know it's good for their own and environmental health, but find it embarrassing to ride a cycle.” There.

The irony is hilarious. We buy expensive, accessorised bikes for our brats. We spend thousands on racing, rally and mountain bikes. We crowd our bedroom with an exercise bike or drive across the city to the gym to pedal a stationary one. But no, we won't be seen jumping off a cycle at our workplace. Is it because maids, teawallahs, newspaper and courier boys are seen astride it?

Rahul Prabhakar, software again, has been covering the two-and-a-half km to work on a slim, geared bicycle the last two years. “It's a no-cleaning-no-cost-no-tension workout,” he said. When stuck in traffic, he simply lifts his transport on to the footpath and pedals down. “I overtake cars,” he said gleefully. “A group of us went to Mahabs and back (96 km) on the same day.” Nityanand Jayaraman, activist/journo gets lyrical about his cycling forays.

“Just yesterday, I rode my bike around on a few errands. My daughter was in the back; the air was cool; there was a cloud cover; traffic was light. I pedalled slowly and sang at the top of my voice.”

There are strong “go-cycling” arguments. Growl “weather!” and enthusiasts will tell you to start early, take the by-lanes. It gets hot by 10 a.m., but you're in the office long before that. Fussy ones can pack a change of clothes. Can managers be talked into providing showers? It's been done, you know!

Bicycling makes economic sense. You don't need a 24-speed with a carbon-fibre frame and disk brakes. A simple bicycle will take you to your destination. It's faster than walking or riding a bus, better than haggling with auto drivers.

It is a breeze

The breeze is a thrill. You can park just about anywhere, wind through traffic jams, wheel through one-ways. “In these times of climate change, cycling is one way of ensuring you don't trash the planet by your act of getting from place to place,” said Nity, “Sure, but is it feasible?” asked Prof. Swaminathan at IIT. “A bicycle-friendly city is one that's developed for short travels to work, school, hospital and cinema. We need inter-linked satellite complexes with bike stands, and electric versions of cycles for easy use.” Will that change mindsets?

Cycling needn't remain the transport of poor vendors, a greening effort of environmentalists, hobby of enthusiasts, medical activity of the old, medal dream of sportspersons. All we need is to start a trend — think cloth/jute bags college girls carry.

Once cyclists are a community, the strength in numbers will wake the city up to its joys.

FASCINATING FACTS

* Jell seats ease the strain.

* A compartment should be earmarked for cycles in city/suburban trains

* Rent-a-cycle kiosks and bicycle lanes will help.

* 36 per cent of the 1.6 million population of Copenhagen use their bike everyday.

* At least 10 world cities are bicycle-friendly.

GEETA PADMANABHAN

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