Riding into the sunset

Policymakers promise superhighways and high-speed trains, but not bicycle lanes in our cities

November 27, 2022 12:45 am | Updated 12:45 am IST

A cyclist is an odd man out on the chaotic road, an unwelcome disruptor among the automobiles arrogantly jostling for space.

A cyclist is an odd man out on the chaotic road, an unwelcome disruptor among the automobiles arrogantly jostling for space. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

“Any bicycle repair shop around? Can anyone share the location please?”

That was a desperate appeal from a woman in our residents’ association’s WhatsApp group. Her child’s bicycle needed urgent mending. 

“There is one around two km away.” Soon came the first response.

“No. The shop shut long ago, even before COVID,” someone else chipped in.

Where have the bicycle repairers gone? The wayside mechanics who would do a gamut of works on your bicycles for a paltry sum have almost gone extinct. These days, only children use bicycles and you know a mechanic needs regular customers to survive. There is a time in everyone’s life when most of us would first become proud owners of a bicycle. And there comes a stage when we abandon the prized possession and graduate ourselves to a motorised vehicle. Unused and unattended, the bicycles rust and disintegrate and finally end up at scrap dealers. 

City roads in Kerala have now become totally unfriendly for bicycles. A cyclist is an odd man out on the chaotic road, an unwelcome disruptor among the automobiles arrogantly jostling for space. There are people out there who love to bicycle to their workplaces but dare not, dreading the reckless traffic on the way. 

Is speed synonymous with progress? The transition from bullock carts to bullet trains denotes mankind’s journey toward development. However, passion for speed and more speed could trigger a gasping race to nowhere. To find time to relish the fruits of development, the curve has to slow down and plateau somewhere. 

A bicycle is silent like a butterfly, easy like a true friend to possess and maintain. A bicycle symbolises fine balancing, not just on its narrow wheels but a balanced living. This simple carbon-free mode of transport helps the rider to be healthy and heal the habitat. People who cycle to work tend to be less stressed out at workplaces. Motorcyclists whiz past, hiding their heads and thoughts in full-face helmets. Car owners roll up their glasses and cocoon their mind and body from the outside world.  A cyclist pedals under the open sky, opens up to friends and fellows on the way, and forgets one’s own worries. It seems egalitarianism is part and parcel of cycling culture.   

We are on a building spree and they say the expressways would smoothen the traffic and ease the carbon footprint. Hills are flattened, bends are straightened, and trees are axed. The line-up of tall coconut trees that once merrily flanked the two-lane highway near my house has now receded deep. Piling for flyovers and building new bridges over rivers are happening at a frantic pace and the stretch looks like a war-ravaged region.

Policymakers promise us multi-lane superhighways and high-speed trains but not bicycle lanes in our cities. Why not decongest our cities with bicycle lanes, a silent, prudent way to meet our climate target! Reinvent the bicycle, who knows it could once again prove to be a wheel of change for humans.

harichitrakootam@yahoo.com

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