Chennai

Pedalling a sustainability message

Anand N.C., one of those who have signed up for the

Anand N.C., one of those who have signed up for the "Commute Bi Cycle" programme. Photo: Special Arrangement   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“Commute Bi Cycle” is an initiative that encourages experienced as well as amateur cyclists to use their bikes as a key mode of transport

Just ten minutes of cycling on Chennai roads in rush-hour traffic will show you how low down the commuting totem-pole the cyclist is. It’s not just about the glaring lack of cycling infrastructure, but also the disdainful nonchalance with which they are treated, much like an ant would be in a room full of partying behemoths.

So, the humble cycle, which once ruled the roads, is now fighting for its rightful space. ‘Commute Bi Cycle’ (CBC), an initiative started by WCCG – Chennai Cyclists Group, is in the vanguard of this battle.

Being cycle-dependant

The initiative was kick-started — oops, pedalled off — only about a month ago, and it is already rich with 100-plus riders from across Chennai who have signed for it.

They would cycle down their regular commute — at least once or twice a week, if not all days of the work-week. Though the spotlight is on commuting, this initiative is not restricted to it, and aims at engineering shift in thinking, which can best be described as “being cycle-dependant”. So, it is about being open to the idea of cycling to the supermarket, school, college, theatre and while running any local errands — on an everyday basis.

As it seeks to make the cycle more than an fitness prop, and integrate it into one’s lifestyle, the “Commute Bi Cycle” initiative brings together experienced as well as amateur cyclists to use their bikes as their major mode of commute.

Locality-based groups

Right now, CBC has five locality-based groups for Anna Salai, GST Road, OMR, 100-Feet Road and Mount-Poonamallee Road. They will soon be expanding to more localities. The commute groups are a platform for knowledge-sharing on cycling as well as for ensuring group rides for those who are alone.

Commuting challenge

They also discuss common issues faced during their commute and solutions based on experience. CBC has also rolled out a ‘2020 Commute Champion Challenge’ where participants are expected to commit themselves to a certain number of commute days and fulfilling the commitment during the month and year.

With three categories to compete for, a pro commuter commits to 100 to 140 days, an ace commuter commits to 141 to 180 days and a champion commuter pledges to ride for 180+ days in 2020. Winners will be rewarded with a certificate and a memento, for encouragement. The group overall has accomplished 350+ commuting rides in the month of January 2020 so far.

Lack of infrastructure

Lack of cycling infrastructure, which include dedicated bike tracks, and the lack of empathy from other road users towards cyclists are two of the major challenges faced by these cycle commuters. But an increase in the number of riders on the road, the organisers believe, the Government will take notice and come forward to build the necessary facilities to promote this green mode of transport.

Across the world, cities like Copenhagen are making their roads cyclist-friendly by creating exclusive cycling superhighways with suitable facilities for cyclists such as appropriate signals, safer intersections, air pumps and foot rests. These connect study, work and residential areas and are located close to stations making it easy for combining public transportation with biking.

The Commute Bi Cycle initiative also envisions to make Chennai, bicycle-commute-friendly, propagating the concept of #WeToo — We too share the road. Divakaran, an avid cyclist who has been using his cycle regularly for fitness as well as commuting, shares some tips on riding stress-free on Chennai roads: “Time, safety and fuel are key. Start early, do not listen to music to distract yourself from ambient traffic.

Always wear a helmet and find a spot where you can have a short break for tea/coffee/snacks”.

With global and local conversations around air pollution, environment conservation on the rise, commuting by cycle is one of the ways to reduce your carbon footprint. If you wish to get going on your commuting journey by cycle, visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CommuteBiCycle/ and join their Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CommuteBiCycle/ or email to commutebicycle@gmail.com

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 8:05:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/pedalling-a-sustainability-message/article30593703.ece

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