From the north to the south of India, more and more women and men are slowly yet steadily joining the global biking bandwagon. We have chosen three Indian cities – Gurgaon, Delhi and Cochin – to understand the passion and commitment driving their biking clubs.
Five years after it became Gurgaon’s first biking club, Pedalyatri is today one of the best-known bicycle clubs in India. Founded by Times Internet Chief Editor Rajesh Kalra along with his three friends, it has grown to a present strength of 600 members. A motley group of students, doctors, journalists, lawyers and corporate executives, Pedalyatri has members who use bicycles to go to office everyday. “We have members who never drive a car,” says Kalra. Safety is a top priority for Pedalyatri, which insists on its members using helmet, reflective clothing, front and rear lights and gloves. No wonder then that the club’s motto is: ‘To cycle and cycle the right way”. Pedalyatri’s efforts to help inexperienced cyclists are laudable. “There is a lot of emphasis at the club on assisting those who do not know the technical aspects like frame length, gear ratio and optimal cycling position,” explains Jaskaran Lamba, a biotechnologist and IT services entrepreneur, who is an active member of Pedalyatri.
The Delhi Cycling Club began modestly in 2006 with a mere eight members. Today it has 750 members in Delhi and another 250 in other Indian cities and abroad. While the members outside Delhi participate in online discussions about cycling-related issues and share their experiences besides participating in rides while in the city, its Delhi members help the club in four important activities: Organizing rides on themes to popularize the culture of cycling, pursuing with government and civic bodies on the need to develop a cyclist-friendly infrastructure in the city, organizing knowledge-sharing and training in safe cycling for people from other cities and creating a network of biking groups and NGOs for promoting cycling. “We are here with a conviction. Through our sustained campaign, we have successfully pushed the agenda of cycling in Delhi Master Plan 2021,” says club founder Nalin Sinha.
In the southern Indian coastal state of Kerala, the Cochin Bikers Club, which was formed in 2009 with just eight members, today boasts of a membership of 730. On the World Car-free Day on September 22 in 2012, the club members were joined by students, teachers and even the elderly citizens in Kochi, the commercial capital of Kerala, for a 25 km bike ride to spread awareness about bicycle travel. “Traffic is increasing day by day in Kochi like any other city in the country. Our club is encouraging people to pedal to work if their offices are within 5 km,” says Shuhaib Abdul Rehman, founder of the club. “We tell them, it is cost-effective and pollution-free,” Rehman adds. On January 19 2013, Kochi will become the eighth city in India to organize a brevet under the tutelage of the French Audax club. Says Rehman, “There is tremendous response to the event which will be a 200 km ride. We hope it will further raise awareness about cycling in Kerala.”
Compiled by Faizal Khan firstname.lastname@example.org