Monday, July 20, 2015

Be the change: Make slow resurgence of cycling in our cities possible

Nikita Lalwani is an instrumentation engineer working with a multi-national corporate firm called Linde Engineering in Vadodara and she has been cycling to work everyday for last one and half years. Nikita also promotes the idea of cycling at work and she has convinced many of her colleagues to take up cycling seriously. She also runs a website - cyclingcities.infor promoting a cycling culture in our cities. Everyday (or occasional) cycling to work has health benefits for individuals and environmental benefits to the society at large. It is high time that employers, firms and individuals come forward and support employees who are coming to work on cycles by proving secured parking spaces, shower rooms and financial support if need be. Should it not make ‘business sense’ to support cycling, which consumes less parking space compared to cars? Parking is becoming a big real estate problem and if an employee does not want to consume as much parking then it is beneficial to the firm! 
Amidst overwhelming automobile culture and increasing traffic on roads, there has been a slow resurgence of a cycling sub-culture in our cities, at least amongst the privileged class. Ahmedabad has active cycling clubs like Cyclone and Ahmedabad Bicycling Club. There are businesses like Decathlon, Revolutions, Cycle Shop, Cycle Crew and MyByke who support cycling related activities. Emergence of these clubs and businesses indicate that there is a growing interest in cycling. If cycling is further backed up by adequate infrastructure by the government and by private sector employers then this interest will only multiply. Of course, any investment in cycling infrastructure will also benefit lakhs of poor cyclists who commute everyday on cycles and it will also encourage children to take up cycling to go to school or for fun. Apart from the government and private firms, individuals have to play an important role to promote environment-friendly choices like cycling. 
Cycling to work or to other destinations is an individual’s initiative to combat climate change, air pollution and traffic congestion. Are we happy with just our children making drawings like ‘save trees’ in their schools or should our concerns for environmental degradation make us take the onus too? As a society with increasing incomes, should we form habits around relentless consumption or should we make more environmental friendly choices in our own lives? These are difficult questions with straight answers. Do as much as you can to make more environment-friendly choices and encourage others to do so. If you are an employer then encourage your employees to take up cycling and if you are an employee then seek support from your employer for promotion of cycling. 
Probably an entire generation of kids will never know how to wander around the city on cycles. Many parents put a blanket ban on cycling for their children, which may be unnecessary. It should be perfectly alright for children to cycle on roads with less or limited traffic. If such an environment is not available then it should be created even if it is temporary. An interesting cycling event is being planned on the 5 km stretch on the riverfront road on Sunday, July 26, from 6 am onwards. You are welcome to join with your children. The only condition is to bring cycles and possibly helmets. Let’s create a safe cycling environment to promote a cycling culture in our cities because cycling-friendly cities are people-friendly, healthy and beautiful cities.

 (20th July, 2015: DNA Ahmedabad edition, Cities Supplement, Page 5)

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