Delhi has become congested with way too many cars on the streets. While Delhi suffers the wrath of excessive auto mobile consumption and pollution, it still has scope (and hope) to avoid such circumstances, thanks to its increasing breed of enthusiastic cyclists. But that very pollution and traffic is a deterrent for the cycling ninjas.
Micheal Wants To Cycle
The cycling community is indigenous and has spread its roots throughout Delhi NCR. The cycling sub-culture has significantly risen in the past couple of years. Be it fitness oriented or just a fad, as opposed to undertaking cycling as a primary mode of transport, things have definitely changed. Be it recreational cycling or fitness oriented, people are definitely more enthusiastic about cycling than three-four years ago and also more conscious about the environment, hence trying to do their bit. Cycling maybe a rich man’s sport, however, for a poor man it is his mode of transport— sometimes his only option. Apart from saving time and money, there would be a 10-20% drop in the vehicular traffic, if our roads were safer for cyclists. The drop in this traffic would also mean savings in fuel prices and of course, the direct positive impact on our environment. But just where do they cycle??
Cyclists, The Endangered Species in Delhi
If someone were to check the dictionary meaning of the word cyclist in our part of the world, the description most definitely would be “an endangered species”. Delhi is dangerous for cyclists. Period! And cyclists are brave hearts! Each year half of the traffic fatalities are of people on bicycles. But this is not surprising. A glance at any street indicates the government’s priorities on the road: cars, two-wheelers and large vehicles, not bicycles.
Roads in the Indian capital are chaotic, dog-eat-dog and pretty much only one rule is followed: the size of your vehicle and the strength of your horn matters. Lack of quality air is another reason not to saddle up.
It’s not as if the city does not have cycling lanes along major roads. But the state they are in prevents safer and higher use of bicycles for short commutes, most of which have been encroached upon by cars and trucks. Some roads are badly designed with sharp bends and there is no infrastructure to allow cyclists unhindered entry to the special lane.
Some mothers of South Delhi lamented that their kids haven’t even taken to recreational cycling, something which is otherwise an intrinsic part of growing up. “There’s no place where they can learn, and if they do, there’s no place where they can eventually enjoy cycling”, one such mother shares her disappointment. Few gated colonies and condominiums, most of which are in Gurgaon and Noida provide a safe environment for cycling. It’s a delight watching these kids ride with gay abandon.
Many expats say cycling is a way of life for them and they would love to “cycle to work”. One such person even shared how he carries his portable bike with him in the metro from his home to Gurgaon, with a plan to cycle from the metro station (Guru Dronacharaya) to his office on the Golf Course Road. “Due to the traffic and attitude of drivers, I’m forced to carry the bike in the boot of an Uber or Ola, well, mostly so!” he smirks. He adds how his kids’ school is all of two kilometers from his house, but the parents cannot imagine allowing them to cycle to school.
Hope At The End Of The Bend
Do Not Despair! Here’s some respite from all that’s been discouraging you from cycling in Delhi.
Take advantage of green spaces. Delhi boasts of dozens of large parks and forests, many perfect for recreational cycling. They are great to escape the rush of the city, but cycling off-road does have it’s own potential pitfalls. Most notable is the high likelihood of a puncture on the rocky, uneven tracks. Between Qutab Minar and Jawaharlal Nehru University in south-west Delhi, this forest has a smooth track to cycle on, so a puncture is unlikely. The area is home to the ruins of an ancient fort and don’t be surprised if you ride past peacocks, monkeys and other animals (better than maniac drivers!)
If that sounds too tame, the unkempt forested area behind Akshardham metro station near a stretch of the Yamuna river could be a better option. There, conditions are a little rougher and have an almost rural feel, with fields of crops on either side and buffaloes and tractors driving in your direction.
Mangar Bani, a huge forest between Faridabad and Gurgaon on the outskirts of south Delhi, is another option. The Gwal Pahadi used to be a great cycling route, but over the years, the traffic has made its foray here too! Sigh!
Cycle in A Group
Pedal Yatri, Gurgaon Fun Riders, Delhi Cyclists, there are many groups you could be a part of. With rides normally organized on weekends, most groups pick a different riding location each week. So joining in is also a good way to discover what route or track works best for you if you ever decide to go solo.
Head To South Delhi
South Delhi is believed to have the best roads to cycle, especially around Lutyens’s Delhi. These are some of the city’s swankiest streets and the bonus is that this is also where India’s lawmakers reside. A number of the streets there have service lanes, which allow cyclists a quieter space to ride. Many roads are also tree-lined, keeping the sun’s ray at bay.
Happy and safe cycling, folks!!!