Ahead of the curve

Road not taken

Ahead of the curve

For most Bengalureans, a  bright and sunny morning lasts only till they step out of the house.

Somewhere between the time of waking up and reaching the office, that enthusiasm is stifled by the gridlocks on the road.  With every passing day, Bengaluru’s traffic is becoming a maze that many are trying to find their way out of, literally. There are some who have found a solution and chosen their own path, equipped with their bicycles.

Dr Ali Poonawala, a urologist, has been a part of the cycling community for more than five years now. He used to ride his bicycle to the hospitals he worked for. He used to be the consulting doctor for five hospitals and all his commuting was done on the cycle. Now also, he cycles every day to the hospital he works for which is about 8 km from his house.
Ask him what keeps him motivated to use such a mode of transport and he says, “It’s the quickest way to get to your destination! I used to cycle from JP Nagar to Cantonment and I reached much sooner than I would on a motor vehicle. Traffic doesn’t bother me either. Even with the number of signals on the way, I feel that I am about 20 seconds ahead of the traffic behind me.”

The daily trips on the cycle have left cyclists with a myriad of experiences, both good and bad.

Some of the bad experiences include fellow motorists trying to overtake or make rash moves, endangering the lives of everyone on the road. “Bikers and taxi drivers are the worst. They think that they own the road and don’t give way for the cyclists. If you are riding on the edge of the road, they try to invade that space as well,” opines Parag Patankar, a technology executive who rides a minimum of 17 km one way to reach his office. He adds, “There is a general belief that all cyclists are a nuisance. But I think it’s important that we are given the benefit of doubt. Unfortunately, we have no one to support us.”

It’s been about nine years since Parag took the decision to use his bicycle to commute. His 12-year-old son Dhruv also travels along with him. “We live in South Bengaluru and my son’s school is on Bannerghatta Road. As much as I want him to take his bicycle to school, the lack of cycling lanes is a scary thought. Many motorists ply on the left side of the road which many cyclists use. There was even a pilot programme by a cyclists’  group. The group divided the road into lanes but it was poorly managed. Soon it became a spot for car parking. Unfortunately, the infrastructure for cyclists in the city is non-existent,” he concerns.

Nevertheless, many Bengalureans are braving these problems and pedalling on. Archana Sheshagiri is one of those brave souls who asks for her space when needed. She says, “I make sure that the drivers are not too close to me, or give them a chance to stop suddenly. They also assume that I will break the rules and jump the signal. I make sure that I give them a piece of my mind and let them know that I am also a fellow road user just like them.” The cyclists also use make sure they use proper safety gear and reflector lights.

“Many who own bicycles make sure that they have a good one. Since it is a one-time investment, buying the appropriate protection gears is crucial. I’ve had many instances where car drivers and bikers have enquired about my ride,” she proudly exclaims.
And one of the good qualities the cyclists have picked up is punctuality.

Ali says, “The trick is to ride slowly and leave early so that you have enough time to freshen up before your appointment. I have come up with a theory called ‘The Cow’s Law’ which basically means that a cyclist should be like a cow — very predictable, visible and not worry about speed. Eventually, the people around you will also respond and live in harmony. It’s important to remember that speed is not the criteria but predictability is. You are one of the many road users and as long as we respect each other’s space, we will be just fine.”

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