A school’s policy of encouraging cycling led to two students pursuing it actively and overcoming some common and strong deterrents.
Nimisha Simon and Rini Elizabeth Alex have been cycling to school since the academic year started in 2013. Thanks to Fr Paul D’Souza, Principal St Vincent Pallotti School, Bangalore and his policies of promoting non motorised transport among students primarily to reduce congestion around school and to encourage active life style.
This change in travel modality started when they realized that even at the age of 16 they have to depend on many people to reach school which is only 4.5 km away or spend a lot of money on auto rickshaws. But after three months of cycling to school, they realized that they now don’t have to depend on others or have to bargain with auto drivers.
Initial hurdles were in the form of heavy traffic, especially at crossings and junctions, stray dogs that would chase cycles, eve teasing, very few cycle repair shops, physical exertion especially in the uphill stretches
How did they overcome the hurdles?
Rini joins Nimisha on the way which is 300 m further down from her home and they both cycle together. Initially in the uphill areas, they pushed their bicycle and then they would get on to the saddle. In the process they found a cool place where they can take rest, have some snacks before they continue to school. Whenever they both feel tired and exhausted, they stop under any shade or push the cycle till they feel better.
Travelling through the residential areas as much as possible helped them to enjoy cycling and take care of their safety.
They started racing between them to motivate each other which helped them to get used to the tiredness. After the initial 3- 4 months they have now become cycling experts are reach their destination in 10-12 minutes without getting tired!
What is their experience?
It is definitely fun, a chance to know their friend better, save money reduce pollution and, keeping them fit. Nimisha has become healthy and not falling sick often. Her teachers have mentioned that she is very alert and attentive.
Rini’s list of advantages include more fun, more free time, time to discussthe class subjects while pedaling to school, increase in appetite and better knowledge about their neighborhood.
Suggestion for all:
Both Rini and Nimisha feel that lot of things depend on how school authorities and parents encourage cycling. School plays a big role in encouraging these efforts and they felt lucky to be in a school where the Principal has made arrangement for 450 – 500 cycle stands for children to park their bicycle safely.
Their recommendation to schools and parents are:
- Children can start cycle to school when they are in 3rd or 4th grade
- No need to wait for infrastructure to come, follow traffic rules
- Have adequate space to keep their bicycles safely in school
- More cycle repair shops in every stretch and rentals in every neighborhood
- Use adequate protective clothes as the weather changes
Contributed by Manju George, Program Officer, ESAF. The program is being technically guided and funded by Health Bridge Foundation, Canada. Manju can be reached at email@example.com