January 01, 2009

Taking to pedal, Delhiites choose an eco-friendly saddle

Pedalling a cycle, often associated with childhood memories, is increasingly becoming routine for people, thanks to the initiatives of the Delhi Metro and the Delhi Bicycling Club, which encourage people to use bicycles for short distances.

In North Campus, a scheme to rent cycles was started two years ago to help students cut on cycle-rickshaw fare. Now, at Rs 10 per cycle for four hours, the initiative is popular with nearly 40 students renting the 26 bicycles every day.

Mukesh, owner of the cycle stall, says students often rent bicycles for the sheer pleasure of paddling. He immediately shifts to their benefits: “On bicycle, one can change destination without hassles. And it’s cheap: the same distance on rickshaw will cost Rs 60-70.”

However, cycling has enthusiasts who take to the pedal for more reasons than cost-cutting. Membership of the Delhi Bicycling Club rose from one to 500 in just one year. Started in 2007, the group has other 300 online members from all over India.

With rallies and workshops, the club has succeeded in convincing at least 20 members to shun their cars for bicycles.

Member Rajindra Verma, who no more buys petrol for his motorcycle, says, “I enjoy the bicycle ride and look forwards to all cycling events.”

Founder of the club Nihil Sinha says half of Delhi’s population travels less than 6 km daily. “It means one can cycle to work, reduce pollution and keep fit,” Sinha, who himself cycles to work, says.

But are the city roads safe for cyclists? Sinha thinks so. He says if traffic rules are followed, cycling is the safest bet on roads: “Delhi with its wide roads can become a haven for cyclists, only if the government spends 1/1000 part of its expenditure on building cycling tracts.”

The Delhi Cycling Club was started by ITDP India, an NGO engaged in research and advocacy for green, sustainable and equitable transport policies.

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