If you are a professional based in Mumbai and wish to take up cycling, daytime traffic and lack of personal time are probably your biggest concerns. To deal with this problem, a bunch of individuals are encouraging everyone to get their cycles out, post-office hours. Late evening, when most spend their valuable time glued to television, a few are hitting the bearable, less congested roads to pursue their passion for cycling and also asking others to do the same.
“Anyone interested in cycling blames lack of infrastructure and paucity of time,” says Bharath Aiyappa, a hospitality executive by profession who shifted to Mumbai from Bangalore. “That’s precisely the reason why we decided to hold cycling expeditions during late evening. That’s when most people are ‘available.'”
Presently, a group of 15+ cycling enthusiasts (and growing) are meeting up in Bandra to cycle from 10:00 p.m. until midnight, exploring the neighborhood from Carter Road to Mount Mary Church. The group claims that the ride is easier because of the late hours. There’s no fear of being run over by errant drivers and the lack of traffic makes maneuvering easier. “Not to forget, it is so much more peaceful in the night without the blaring horns and fumes,” Aiyappa adds.
At the same time, the group creates awareness about sustainable alternatives of transport. One of the participants, Faisal Thakur, a custom bicycle designer, says, “A bunch of people cycling away in the middle of the night can be quite an interesting sight.” The group claims to have been approached by many inquisitive people wanting to know if they can join. Thakur says he occasionally lends his spare bikes to those interested. Many times, though, people cannot participate because of a lack of bicycle renting options in the city. Nonetheless, the nighttime rides create a buzz in the city, where cycling infrastructure is limited but growing.
The daily rides also get many people hooked onto exercise. What follows is a change in perception, where cycling is seen as a viable alternative — rather than a troublesome inconveneince — to getting around the city. On for many months now, the initiative comes as a pleasant surprise, especially when Mumbai is gearing up for a host of cycling events in the coming days, such as Tour De Mumbai, Cyclothon and the upcoming Mumbai Car Free Day. With celebrities such as Salman Khan encouraging everyone to take up cycling and participate in these events, a good response is surely expected.
All this, combined with Mumbai’s chapter of Critical Mass (that started last year) are slowly providing enough opportunities for anyone who wants to pedal. The platform is being created. All that’s needed is a pinch of motivation.