This past Saturday I decided to give up the luxury, if you can call it one, of using my bike to commute around Bangalore and instead rode my bicycle. I wondered if I could be up to the task of cycling about 20 km to airport road in the summer heat. Surprisingly, it turned out to be quite an enjoyable experience. I wasn’t too tired at the end of it and I covered the distance in good time. Less than an hour to be precise and that’s decent for travelling right through central Bangalore’s legendary traffic jams. On Sunday, I cycled from yesvantpur to koramangala in 45 min.
So what makes cycling so enjoyable? Well, for one you can weave through all the traffic that is stationary at the signals and come right in front. And then the moment you get an opportunity to cross, you can go. Even if the signal is red. I stress that you have to exercise utmost caution while doing this. Else you can wait for the pedestrian crossings slots. Also, you always have a free left even if the signal is red. Then there is the footpath in case you can’t weave through. You can go the wrong way on one-way streets instead of having to make cumbersome detours. Also, there is no need of searching for a break in the road divider to take a U-turn. Just hop over it with your bicycle.
The best part is when you bend all these traffic rules; you don’t have to bother about the cops. In fact you can smile at them! I felt like giving the cop at trinity circle a middle finger salute for the unreasonable fine incident. And then you have a chance to best the auto guys in squeezing in all the gaps. You also need not bother about finding a place for parking. Just find a decent place on the footpath and lock your bicycle. The whole city is your parking lot, except the parking lots themselves because your cycle might be thrown out to make place for a motor vehicle.
Besides, cycling is a really good exercise and is an environmentally and economically friendly mode of transport. But you do need to have some level of physical fitness for long distance commute. The climbs can be really tiring especially if your bicycle doesn’t have gears. You get some rest when you have to stop at a red light. So you really don’t mind a red signal as much as when you travel by car or bike. It might also help if you have good shock absorbers. Else you get rocked in the wrong places when the road or footpath is bumpy.
As I have mentioned earlier, your own safety should be your first priority. You have to assume you are invisible, in the sense no one will give you way or bother about your safety. Cyclists are the lowest in the hierarchy of road users. Even pedestrians don’t bother about your presence. They just cross in front of you and don’t move out of the way even if you ring the bell. Less said about other road users the better. No amount of trring trring will get their attention. Sometimes it’s not their fault because your feeble trring trrring is drowned out by the ear splitting tttrrrrr of an auto a mile away. Make sure you have proper reflectors on your bicycle and wear light coloured clothes in case of night cycling. Also be extra alert around buses and autos near bus stops. You never know when they’ll swerve or brake hard, leaving you to fend for yourself.
So there you are. Cycling as a mode of transport has so many advantages. You do your bit for the environment and that is much more than just switching off your light for one hour in a year! You can help decongest Bangalore’s roads. You save money. You will not need any more of those boring treadmill sessions to stay in shape. And above all it’s fun! So pick up a cycle, plug in those earphones and pedal away to glory! Tring Tring!
Added on April 16,2009.
In Paris they have a wonderful bicycle rental system. Check it here I hope Indian cities follow suit soon!