Cycling, key to the city's future

Pollution levels in the capital have made people increasingly vulnerable to respiratory problems and other health-related issues. According to the recent air quality monitoring survey released by Greenpeace, the PM2 levels in Delhi are 10 times higher than the safety limit prescribed by the World Health Organisation and four times more than the Indian safety limit.

Gurgaon had a car-free day on September 22  which gave the residents a rare sight of  empty roads and encouraged them to take out their bicycles once again. A similar initiative is due in Delhi on October 22, but a showdown of uncertainity is still looming over it.

So, in the backdrop of increasing pollution levels and debate on car-free days, Metrolife got in touch with a few cycle enthusiasts who share their experiences and the urge to ride cycles freely and safely in the city.

Sandeep Arora, a resident of Gurgaon, works with Gati Kausar India Ltd, a company based in Ghaziabad. It takes him an hour-and-a half to reach his office every day. But on the car-free day in Gurgaon, the same journey didn’t bother him much.

“That day, I especially borrowed a cycle from my friend which I rode till the toll tax from my house. It was a splendid journey and watching those hassle-free and devoid of traffic roads were a pure bliss,” he expresses.

On the other hand, he regularly drives his car back and forth from Ghaziabad to Gurgaon citing reasons of insufficient and uncomfortable public transport facilities.

“I would love to ride a bicycle every day from my house to the MG Road metro station, but there is no stand or a parking space where I can safely park my bicycle. I also feel that the number of coaches in the Delhi metro aren’t enough as compared to the number of daily commuters that we have from Gurgaon,” says Arora adding that there is also a status symbol attached with people commuting on their personal cars towards their workplaces.

One tends to agree with Arora here, given that a certain section of the society have separate cars for each family member. This is one of the major reasons of increased number of cars on roads during working days.

Similarly, people in Delhi are equally eager to ride bicycles on roads.The passion and urge for riding cycles has grown tremendously and people are now looking forward to be able to safely ride bicycles on a daily basis.

Gaurav Wadhwa, one of the founders of the Delhi Cyclist group, tells Metrolife, “In Delhi, people are now dying to do cycling. We have 10-15 riders joining us on a daily basis, who feel extremely enthusiastic about riding bicycles.”

However, most of these riders are those who want to ride only during the weekends. Wadhwa explains, “A regular rider faces a number of challenges while riding a bicycle in a city like Delhi. There is no infrastructure for the cyclists. Neither are there any traffic rules wherein a cyclist can safely ride on the roads.”

About the parking issues, he says that some malls in Delhi readily provide the parking space to cyclists but the local markets have no provision of parking at all.

These loopholes act as major deterrents in a situation where we do have enthusiastic cyclists and people who are willing to take up cycling as means of commuting.

Twenty-year-old Harjot Singh, another passionate cyclist says, “I think there is a need to increase awareness about the importance of cycling, just like we have Swachh Bharat campaign.”

Along with being a final year B Tech student, Singh also works as a manager with Sphere Fitness and Sports Pvt Ltd Company where they hold initiatives to encourage people to opt for cycling.

“Recently, we started this initiative where we asked people to take a bicycle from us and commute using cycles. The initiative has been successful and we have a lot of people who have switched to cycling for their daily commuting,” says Singh.

Seconding Wadhwa and Arora, even Singh feels that parking is one of the major problems that are faced by cyclists in Delhi.

“Sure, a car-free day is a great idea to regulate pollution levels and promote cycling among people, but if we don’t have a proper parking space for our bicycle, people will not opt for it. Today, none of us would advice our parents to ride a bicycle on road, because we feel our roads are unsafe for riders. Thus, if not on a big level, the government can at least take some small steps promoting cycling. After all, it can be held as a key for the city’s future,” ends Singh.

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