It has been four weeks since Jinali Haria moved to Bengaluru. During her first week here, she availed public transport. She had to change two buses and it took about an hour to reach office. In the third week, seeing no sense in travelling this way, Jinali listened to photographer, web programmer and eco-warrior, Mayank Rungtas advice: cycle to work. When she starting cycling to work, her commute time was reduced from an hour to 20 minutes/ half hour. I plan my day well. I leave by 8.30 or 9 am. Any later than that and the traffic gets crazy. Jinali has discovered short cuts to get to work. I take silent lanes where there is not much traffic.
Since 2017, software professional Chidambaran Subramanian (46), has been cycling to work, on his KHS Flite 350, from JP Nagar to Whitefield. A commute that would take close to two hours (or more, factoring in traffic), takes Chidambaran an hour. I have been cycling for years, he says.
It is not all hunky-dory when it comes to cycling in the city, though. Ask Mayank, an avid cycler. He has conducted 60 workshops with corporates on the importance of cycling. I work remotely now. It has been a long time since I have cycled and am grateful that I dont have to cycle that much. Mayank says he is not a cynic, he is just practical. Earlier we had to face dust, pollution and traffic. These days we face issues such as burning lakes and crazy amounts of plastic being burnt. It is hazardous to us. He agrees, though, that more people are becoming aware of cycling. The membership of the Bangalore Bikers Group has grown to 10,000 plus members today. But he adds: I prefer a tree-lined park over just another cycle track.
Jinali agrees with Mayank and says: It is hazardous. I ensure I have all my gear, including a pollution mask. Also I have faced at least two scary experiences with motorists, including one who almost drove into me. That is why cyclists have to always be alert.
Data scientist Sandeep Tammu (27) cycled to work for a year and a half. My workplace was just four kilometres away. It took me 45 to 50 minutes to reach by public transport or cab. There were days when it would take a lot of time to get a cab. But when I cycles, it took me 20 minutes.
Though now, Sandeep, does not cycle to work as much as he used to. The main thing that bothered me is safety at night. You have to be careful to see all the cars. Sometimes cars overtake trucks and swerve towards the left and may miss seeing the cyclist.
Chidambaran, on the other hand, says it all about getting used to traffic. You need to be adept in a certain mode of cycling. I make sure there is a gap between me and the left hand side of the road. As cyclists we are faster than others. He adds: The Cycling-to-Work group was started by Shilpi Sahu. Every Friday at 8 am we gather at the Iblur Junction and go towards Marathahalli. Shamala Kittane, who builds bicyle wheels for Haappyearth.in, over the weekends, and works at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, has been cycling to work for 10 years. She cycles 15 kilometres to her workplace and it takes her about an hour to reach. She says that cycling has got worse because of blocking of roads for construction. Pollution has increased. But I have seen people make way. She adds that cycling needs stamina. I have built my stamina over 10 years. I also run and exercise so I am fit and wear a mask all the time.
Rohan Kini started Bums on the Saddle, a biking company, because he too is a cycling enthusiast. Bangalore is a good city to cycle in because the weather is great. He agrees that cycling has increased over the years. I have been cycling for 12 years. People are now more aware they need to be safe. We go to companies to raise awareness on cycling to work. A lot of companies are supporting it now. He says the primary reason for cycling is that it is a lot of fun. You end up taking smaller and faster routes. Once you start enjoying it, everything else falls in place. A good bike costs about 1 lakh or 2 lakhs, the most expensive bike we have sold is 10 lakhs. But people recover the cost. If you are on a good product 20 kilometres is not really that big a deal.