Recently, on the Hasiru Usiru e-group (a mailing list for people who want to engage with the government to see how best we can keep this city green while developing it) we have been having a debate about cyclists participating in the Cyclothon.
Cyclothon is a cycling event on the Peripheral Ring Road, which is usually not open to cyclists, built by Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE), that is alleged to have exploited farmers.
The debate has heated up. But that’s not what I want to talk about.
One person made this statement about the cyclists who want to participate in the Cyclothon: "Lets leave the Road to guys with six packs of Gatorade and Red Bull on their 24 speed imported chrome wonders and perhaps hoot from the sidelines".
Now, this statement really worries me and it underlines a worry I’ve had for some time.
We cycle for different reasons; some for the exercise alone, some as a sport, some for the fun of it, and some as a form of transport. I do find that many cyclists who have "ordinary" (read, less expensive) bikes, seem to have a real problem with those who have sports cycles or mountain bicycles. The fact that someone is riding an expensive cycle seems to take the attention to the price of the cycle, and not the fact that the rider, who could probably afford a petrol two-wheeler or four-wheeler, is actually riding a "clean green machine."
The sight of the "fancy cycles" and the spandex clothes seem to make people identify these cyclists as "privileged people" and their reaction seems to be one of scorn, if not outright hatred. It’s probably an understandable reaction of the have-nots to the haves. (It was, of course, less understandable when one of the members of the cycling community expressed such sentiments, but that’s not to the point).
If there’s a gap, it’s up to both sides to reach out, I agree but if one side won’t or can’t, let me suggest that the other side reach out a little more. By all means let’s have the cycling championships, rides to Nandi Hills, the Tour of Nilgiris, and the other events but let’s also take the trouble to organise events, perhaps, that the "ordinary" cyclists can join in. We need them, too, to identify themselves as people who are doing something for the environment and we need to bond as a community. The "doodhwallah" or the newspaper guy needs to take more pride in the fact that he is cycling (as of now, it’s looked down upon as a poor man’s transport).
We need to bridge this gap between the "poor man’s transport" and "rich man’s sport" categories of cycling, and not have arguments and bad feeling within the cycling community. The children’s cycling event on September 6th 2009 organised by Bangalore’s Biker’s club was one such great initiative. Let’s organise one in which more "regular" cyclists participate. Otherwise, the gap may widen, and ill-feeling may fester. ⊕