Two-wheeled tempters

Meet the cyclists who brave all odds, from pollution to traffic, and enjoy their ride to work

It has been four weeks since Jinali Haria moved to Bengaluru. During her first week here, she availed public transport. She had to change two buses and it took about an hour to reach office. In the third week, seeing no sense in travelling this way, Jinali listened to photographer, web programmer and eco-warrior, Mayank Rungta’s advice: cycle to work. When she starting cycling to work, her commute time was reduced from an hour to 20 minutes/ half hour. “I plan my day well. I leave by 8.30 or 9 am. Any later than that and the traffic gets crazy.” Jinali has discovered short cuts to get to work. “I take ‘silent lanes’ where there is not much traffic.”

Two-wheeled tempters

Since 2017, software professional Chidambaran Subramanian (46), has been cycling to work, on his KHS Flite 350, from JP Nagar to Whitefield. A commute that would take close to two hours (or more, factoring in traffic), takes Chidambaran an hour. “I have been cycling for years,” he says.

It is not all hunky-dory when it comes to cycling in the city, though. Ask Mayank, an avid cycler. He has conducted 60 workshops with corporates on the importance of cycling. “I work remotely now. It has been a long time since I have cycled and am grateful that I don’t have to cycle that much.” Mayank says he is not a cynic, he is just practical. “Earlier we had to face dust, pollution and traffic. These days we face issues such as burning lakes and crazy amounts of plastic being burnt. It is hazardous to us.” He agrees, though, that more people are becoming aware of cycling. “The membership of the Bangalore Bikers Group has grown to 10,000 plus members today.” But he adds: “I prefer a tree-lined park over just another cycle track.”

Two-wheeled tempters

Jinali agrees with Mayank and says: “It is hazardous. I ensure I have all my gear, including a pollution mask. Also I have faced at least two scary experiences with motorists, including one who almost drove into me. That is why cyclists have to always be alert.”

Data scientist Sandeep Tammu (27) cycled to work for a year and a half. “My workplace was just four kilometres away. It took me 45 to 50 minutes to reach by public transport or cab. There were days when it would take a lot of time to get a cab. But when I cycles, it took me 20 minutes.”

Though now, Sandeep, does not cycle to work as much as he used to. “The main thing that bothered me is safety at night. You have to be careful to see all the cars. Sometimes cars overtake trucks and swerve towards the left and may miss seeing the cyclist.”

Two-wheeled tempters

Chidambaran, on the other hand, says it all about getting used to traffic. “You need to be adept in a certain mode of cycling. I make sure there is a gap between me and the left hand side of the road. As cyclists we are faster than others.” He adds: “The Cycling-to-Work group was started by Shilpi Sahu. “Every Friday at 8 am we gather at the Iblur Junction and go towards Marathahalli.” Shamala Kittane, who builds bicyle wheels for, over the weekends, and works at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, has been cycling to work for 10 years. She cycles 15 kilometres to her workplace and it takes her about an hour to reach. She says that cycling has got worse because of blocking of roads for construction. “Pollution has increased. But I have seen people make way.” She adds that cycling needs stamina. “I have built my stamina over 10 years. I also run and exercise so I am fit and wear a mask all the time.”

Two-wheeled tempters

Rohan Kini started Bums on the Saddle, a biking company, because he too is a cycling enthusiast. “Bangalore is a good city to cycle in because the weather is great.” He agrees that cycling has increased over the years. “I have been cycling for 12 years. People are now more aware they need to be safe. We go to companies to raise awareness on cycling to work. A lot of companies are supporting it now.” He says the primary reason for cycling is that it is a lot of fun. “You end up taking smaller and faster routes. Once you start enjoying it, everything else falls in place. A good bike costs about ₹1 lakh or ₹2 lakhs, the most expensive bike we have sold is ₹10 lakhs. But people recover the cost. If you are on a good product 20 kilometres is not really that big a deal.”

Satya Sankaran, who is Bengaluru’s first Bicycle Mayor, says that ever since October 2018, there has been an increase in the number of people who have registered on “Approximately, 1,852 people have registered.” He, however, admits there needs to be many more cycle tracks. As for motorists’ attitudes towards cyclists he says: “We conducted Ride for Safety in June 2019 to raise awareness.” He concludes with the punchline: “Cycling is the future of mobility.”

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 10:16:44 PM |

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