The #CycleToWork programme launched last year has made tremendous strides in catalysing commute in Bengaluru. The cycleto.work platform allows ‘Bicycle Ambassadors’ nominated in each company to take leadership to upscale cycle commute in their company. More than half the companies that clock rides on the #CycleToWork platform are situated in the IT belt. So it was just a matter of time before the ambassadors wheeled up to make a statement.
Yesterday, we kicked off ‘#CycleToWork Fridays’ as a critical mass event for bicycle commuters, under the leadership of Shilpi Sahu, Sameer Shisodia and Chidambaram Subramanian. The event was held on On Outer Ring Road (ORR), between Silk Board and Tin Factory. The ambassadors of #CycleToWork in the area turned up in support, and rode away to their workplaces with many others who cycle to work.
This was an attempt to influence authorities to develop safe bicycling facilities along ORR, where bus priority lanes are being mooted.
CycleToWork Fridays will be a weekly show of strength that will build over time. Cyclists will gather at a specific time every Friday and ride to work together, increasing their visibility on the roads. Over time, we expect cyclists across the city to lead the event in their respective localities.
We are also planning to launch BCOS 2.0, a broader collective of cyclists, on November 6. BCOS (Bengaluru Coalition of Open Streets), a non-profit collective, was formed six years ago when Cycle Day began to make its mark in the city as the only open street event in the country. On Cycle Day, a road stretch of over 1 km is cordoned off in a particular locality for a few hours, so that citizens can enjoy cycling and street activities safely.
Five hundred Cycle Days later, there are 40-plus community partners who conduct this open street event in their respective localities. This makes Cycle Day the longest continuously-running open street event in the country.
Besides, a pilot of the walk-to-school programme in Sanjaynagar has led to an increase of 23 percent in cycling and 34 percent in walking in the neighbourhood. Time has come to upscale all these efforts into a coherent programme.
As part of BCOS 2.0, ‘Bicycle Councillors’ will be nominated from 198 wards in the city as voices to promote local bicycling. ‘Bicycling Champions’ will be nominated from schools and colleges, and Bicycle Councillors will help them upscale walking and cycling in their institutions.
Also, #CycleToWork Ambassadors will work with companies to reduce their transportation externalities by getting employees to commute by cycle. And the broader collective will work with the government to make change happen.
Indian cities have been lagging in the effort to promote cycling. The Dutch discovered cycling with the Kindermoord movement and the oil embargo in the 70s, followed by many European cities. The Americans are discovering it as a way to reclaim the downtown core or the historic districts. The Chinese just can’t afford anything else without overheating the environment. Whatever the reasons are, there is a mode share that bicycling will claim in the city of the future.
But in large Indian cities, the mode share of cycling is still less than three percent. This lopsided mode share will present a massive environmental cost to our cities and drain productivity if we don’t address it immediately.
[This article originally appeared in Medium.com, and has been republished with edits]