These Mumbaikars are opting for the humble two-wheeler for a hassle-free commute.
One of the most common complaints that working professionals have in a metropolitan city like Mumbai is the manic traffic they face while commuting to and fro work. Just last week, though, Harish Baijal, joint commissioner of vigilance, Maharashtra FDA, hit the headlines as he spoke about preferring cycling to work, in order to stay fit and help save the environment. Harish is part of a budding community in Mumbai, who are tackling traffic woes and lack of work out time by biking to work.
Twenty eight year old mechanical engineer, Vinit Kothari, cycles from his home in Ghatkopar to his office in Vikhroli. “It is a four and a half kilometre ride approximately, and takes me around 20 minutes to cover the distance. A bus would’ve take me an hour!” he exclaims. Vinit says that in the past he used to be conscious of what people would think of him on a cycle on the road. It was when he was studying Aurangabad that he came across a documentary that impressed him and encouraged him to get a cycle. “The fact that no one knew me in Aurangabad made me brave enough to cycle. Eventually, I stopped caring about what people would think. Since then, cycles have been my mode of transport,” he recalls. Vinit’s workplace however isn’t completely cyclist-friendly. “There is no bathing facility but since the building is old, there is free parking.”
While Vinit tries to follow a minimalist lifestyle that doesn’t harm the nature, Girish Mallya, however, prefers taking his cycle to work because it is the quickest way to commute. The 41-year-old magazine publisher has been a runner for over 25 years and has only taken up cycling as a cross training programme. “I don’t like going to the gym for exercising. Having been a runner for all these years, I wanted to try other forms of exercises. Running only works up a certain group of muscles. For me, exercise and sports should be enjoyable,” he says. He rides from his home in Deonar till Dadar TT. “It is the fastest way to get to work — even in traffic! It is a 14-15 kilometre ride and usually takes me around 35-45 minutes,” he says.
When asked if the city is safe for cycles, Girish compares it with other cities. “Mumbai is a well-lit city and is much safer than Bangalore. For urban cyclists, the Mumbai traffic is manageable except for ST buses that drive rough and are aggressive towards cyclists. Either way, road safety should be the priority when taking the cycle on the road,” he warns.
AbdulRab N Kazi, founder of Everest Cycling Culture, a cycling group based in Navi Mumbai also thinks that people on the roads are tolerant of cyclists. He paints a clear contrast of the traffic scene in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. “It’s so much easier to ride the cycle in Navi Mumbai — the roads are wide and there is lesser traffic. Whereas in Mumbai, the bikers and autowallahs are all in a rush to get to their destination on time.”
You’d be forgiven for assuming that cycling to work only has a handful of fans. Companies like Edelweiss are setting aside special budgets for the health, fitness and well-being of their employees. Jitendra Joshi, a sports consultant and founder of SportzConsult, says there are several companies that are inclined to providing health or fitness programme to their employees. “These days, many companies are setting aside special budgets for their employees. Through our seminars we have come to realise that a lot of people prefer cycling as an exercise because it is relatively injury-free and easy on the knees,” he explains. It is quite cynical to believe that the companies aren’t genuinely interested in the well-being of their employees. “Exercising together is a great binder for the company. Employees at different levels get a chance to engage — cross-functional teams bond with each other, where they otherwise wouldn’t. And a strong team is always an advantage for the employer,” he explains.
Jitendra, who has also cycled a half marathon from Khardung La to Leh, believes in making exercising a part of one’s lifestyle. “Don’t make exercising a big event — try incorporating it in your lifestyle; it needs to blend into what you do daily. That is the sustainable way to stay fit and one reason why I inculcated the habit of cycling everyday,” he concludes.