The Creaking Tree Society

Why the bicycle business is booming

Woman passing traffic on her bike in a cycling lane  

Many businesses are under pressure these days. Restaurateurs are crying into their coffee; demand for embroidered lehenga-cholis is low, and the sales of SUVs remain half-hearted. Most other companies are busy trying to avoid acquisition by Reliance. But the bicycle business seems to be booming.

Just go to Decathlon, or visit any cycle shop, and you will see. Sales are brisk, and joy is unconfined. The salesmen are grinning from ear to ear. What has led to this boom, you may ask? A variety of factors have contributed. For one thing, the Government now makes more money out of petroleum products than any other entity on the planet except Saudi Aramco, the only difference being that Saudi Aramco at least has to dig out the stuff and build refineries, whereas our Government just issues circulars.

This makes motorised transportation in India far more expensive than it used to be. We could go back to the days of horseback riding, converting our garages into stables, with one horse each for Mummy, Daddy and Bunty, and a smaller one for Daadi, but due to failures in family planning and poor horse management, the human population now far outstrips the horse population. Horses are no longer an option. Under the circumstances, the cheapest way to get from point A to point B, without walking, is a bicycle.

In Delhi at least, walking is completely out of the question, which is why there is so much competition to park right in front of the McDonald’s, instead of three feet from the entrance, which is too far away. Of course, it’s not all about high petroleum prices and lack of horses. There are positive reasons for the adoption of cycling as well.

Cycling is green. In fact, some Government officers have even explained that the high price of petrol and diesel is all part of a master plan, designed to lessen our dependency on fossil fuels and reduce our carbon footprint. They are doing it because they care.

Some of the upper classes feel the same way and are rolling out bikes to save the planet. It is also an opportunity to buy cool helmets and hot pink cycling shorts. It’s not something to complain about. It is a good thing. Fitness levels are improving. Fresh air is being breathed in, so long as we stay upwind from Punjab. COVID-19 is being avoided, unless you perch a loved one on the handlebar, but no one really does that anymore. Most of us are plumper, and the handlebars are slim.

Unfortunately, I myself am not part of this phenomenon. The whole thing is passing me by. I never learnt how to cycle when I was young. My mother felt it was too dangerous. I was raised as a sort of science experiment, without friends who could have been a bad influence, and avoiding all sudden movements, which might have caused injury. In a moment of weakness, she did take me for a few swimming lessons, but I refused to float.

Cycling was never an option. But don’t mind me. Don’t let that stop you. It’s the thing to do now. Go right ahead. I’ll be on the balcony, nursing a cup of tea, waving you on as you pass by.

No horses were harmed during the production of Shovon Chowdhury’s most recent novel, Murder With Bengali Characteristics.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2020 4:24:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/the-creaking-tree-indias-bicycle-boom/article32892385.ece

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