Neil Law,

India Today - - SOCIETY -

Sohrab H. Bhoot, in­sti­tuted the na­tional Cy­cling Fed­er­a­tion of In­dia. In the 1950s, with the ex­pan­sion of In­dian cy­cling com­pa­nies, the com­mon man started rid­ing be­cause it was more af­ford­able.

That was un­til the car be­came ubiq­ui­tous. Not just that, class con­scious­ness has also pre­vented many from tak­ing to this en­vi­ron­ment­friendly mode of trans­port. Anil Uchil, 43, a cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sional who founded Cy­cle to Work in Mum­bai in 2010, agrees, but says the en­try of im­ported, high-end cy­cles has brought about a huge change. Uchil, who has been cy­cling to work since 1993, says, “To­day the av­er­age ur­ban cy­clist rides a cy­cle that does not cost less than Rs 20,000. But my fo­cus in the last few years has been the mid­dle in­come groups which prob­a­bly doesn’t have ac­cess to th­ese high-end brands. I aim to re­duce the snob­bery as­so­ci­ated with it and my mes­sage is sim­ple: It doesn’t mat­ter what you ride, just main­tain your cy­cle and ride it.”

Cy­cling en­thu­si­asts in the coun­try, how­ever, are not hav­ing it easy. And it’s not just be­cause of the chaotic streets, the poor con­di­tion of roads and the lack of ded­i­cated cy­cling tracks. In states such as West Ben­gal, a se­vere re­stric­tion has been placed on cy­cling. While 38 streets have been off-lim­its to cy­clists in Kolkata since 2008, Chief Min­is­ter Ma­mata Ban­er­jee has made the rules even tougher this year. On May 24, Ban­er­jee banned cy­cles on an ad­di­tional 174 streets in Kolkata. Of th­ese, there has been a com­plete ban on 42 streets while on the rest, cy­cling is banned from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m

Cy­clists have not taken the ban well and there have been protests in the city such as the Cy­cle Satya­graha on Septem­ber 8 and Chakra Satya­graha on Oc­to­ber 5. A re­cent Kolkata Mu­nic­i­pal De­vel­op­ment re­port stated that 2.5 mil­lion trips are made in Kolkata on cy­cles ev­ery day. Gau­tam Shroff, 39, founder of Right 2 Breathe, a group of cy­cling en­thusi-

Www.in­di­a­to­day­im­ages.com

NEIL LAW(THIRD FROM RIGHT)

WITH FEL­LOW CY­CLISTS

SU­BIR HALDER/

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