Cyclists have been a part of the commuter fabric for decades now, from the milkman, newspaper boy, postman, students and others. Though there is no record of the exact number of cyclists commuting to work, the last couple of years have seen a new wave of bicycle riders earning the city of Bengaluru the title — “Cycle Capital of India.”
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The cycling activities in the city include weekend long distance cycling, adventure cycling, awareness creation etc. Many of these riders have become full-fledged commuter cyclists. There has been a change in perception and acceptance of this small but significant group. It is visible in the number of cycle parking slots, cycle renting establishments, range of cycles and accessories offered and of course, attempts at dedicated cycle lanes.
There are plenty cycling events in the city. Every weekend there are 100s of cyclists who take the roads less travelled and head out of the city, many take on Turahalli or Nandi Hills. If you want to get initiated or need someplace to begin, follow groups like IcycleIcontribute, Cycle Day, GoGreenCycling that organise events in different localities and creates awareness speed enthusiasts can follow the Bangalore Bicycle Championships, Bumsonthesaddle organises a variety of rides and for those who enjoy city trails on the bicycle Unventured is organising one on 2nd August 2014.
Cyclists are being recognised as mainstream road users is a fact. The Directorate of Urban Land Transport, GoK jointly organises the Cycle Day in various parts of the city, in association with community organisations, citizens and Government departments like the BTP and BMTC. The Cycle Day in Yelahanka recently saw a turnout of 3000 cyclists, the one organised in Jayanagar, Indiranagar and Agara lake area saw people from different walks of life participate.
In a city where recreational cycling is popular, the next step would be to take the cycle onto the streets more often, be it to the office or running errands. The apprehension is quite understandable, because it is indeed a big step. On Bangalore’s roads, it is natural for every single road user to feel that they are at the bottom of the pecking order but several regular commuter cyclists feel the risk element is the same as the pedestrians or two-wheeler riders (the statistics do show a smaller number.)
Larger sensitisation needed
A post about commuter cyclists by Sridhar Pabbisetty, avid cyclist and member – Ride A Cycle Foundation, had many concerns about the safety of cyclists. Some people said that other vehicles and pedestrians on road act as if cyclists don’t exist on road. This is something that needs larger sensitisation among all users.
The TenderSure road guidelines have a separate cycle track. Many roads in Central Business District area are getting re-designed using TenderSure, to have a dedicated cycle track. It remains to be seen how useful these tracks would be, in future.
Ride A Cycle Foundation hopes to bring more cyclists on the roads through its programmes. Mayank Rungta from the foundation, in collaboration with the Bangalore Byking Community, cycle specialists and vendors organises workshops in companies to create awareness, address apprehensions and offer advice on what cycles are appropriate or fits ones budget.
It is long road ahead in terms of policies to make the city cycle-friendly, but the handful that are doing it are definitely paving the way for the rest where a cyclist is a recognised road user.
Wipro shows the way by encouraging cyclists
In 2010, Yateesh Kumar, a commuter cyclist and his colleagues formed Freewheelers, Wipro’s cyclist group. They began cycling to work once a month on Fridays after gathering at the meeting point which was the Silk Board Junction. Workshops and cycle exhibitions were organised, the size group grew, the frequency of rides increased and so did their visibility – the management understood their distinct value and the Freewheelers were covered in the in house publication Eco Eye and also listed for Wipro’s Asian Capital Human Award.
The Freewheelers also proposed that the company’s two wheeler loan be extended for cycles and cycles be included in the list of management allowances. These proposals were accepted and gave the cyclists a boost. The group has grown from 45 to 250 registered cyclists in Wipro today. Although they have had issues with key people travelling on assignments, several employees still cycle to work everyday.
Other campuses with a significant number of cyclists include Juniper Networks ~ 200, Thoughtworks ~ 100, Embassy Golf Links Tech Park ~ 300, Amazon ~ 50 and Manyata Tech Park ~ 70 to name a few.
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