The First Bicycle Mayor of India. Mission to Involve One-third population to commute using cycles!

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Update: Here’s another video released by Vox on bicycles.

“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.”

These lines are largely credited to Herbert George Wells. I wouldn’t be far from the truth if say that he was cycling enthusiast, a fanatic, for you could find considerable references to cycling in most of his work.

For the culture of cycling isn’t just beneficial towards reducing one’s carbon footprint and health quotient. Most feminists would agree when I say, how crucial this piece of fossil-fuel-free machinery was in liberating women in late 19th century in America.

With the advent of new and faster tech, we should ideally move ahead and live up to it. But somehow we’re getting more and more confined to indoorsy setting. Exercising in closed spaces, more online and less face-to-face interaction, more air conditioners doing all or most of the work of even purifying air apparently.

So when Nikita Lalwani told me she was appointed the Bicycle Mayor of Vadodara (the first and only city mayor from India) by Cycle Space’s Bicycle Mayor Program to attend the first bicycle mayor conference Netherlands, I was all up to help her get there, for these people will inspire the next billion people to pick up cycle around the globe.

Nikita Mobilizing Vadodara

Netherlands and Denmark lead the charge with the best countries promoting cycling and the key is a set of tried and tested methods, infrastructure coupled with the citizen’s enthusiasm to inculcate cycling as a crucial part of their lives. Copenhagen and Amsterdam leading the charge as two most bike-friendly cities in the world.

Even as a young one, Nikita was very conscious about how people consume resources and energy nonchalantly without keeping in mind the end consequences. In 2011, Nikita was selected as a Yatri in Jagriti Yatra where she learnt and deepened her understanding of why her choice of awareness towards renewable ways of life was important.

“Even in school, as my teachers remember me, I used to be the kid leaving the class in end to switch off lights and fan switches”, she remembers.

“In the final year of my college, I used a senior’s cycle after she left. But the turning point came after college when commuting to work became a hassle because of a bridge construction which doubled my 4 km commute time to work, I moved to cycling to never look back.”

She started cycling in 2014, and 5-6 enthusiastic people joined in with her. Looking at their efforts a lot of other people were intrigued and interested in cycling to work. People had a lot of doubts about cycling, its benefits, misconceptions, and myths which she cleared. She started Cycling Cities, an online concept to spread awareness about cycling and TRING (Try Cycling), an offline project to help people to cycle to work who lived relatively close by. About 50 people rented bicycles. That is when she realized how important it was to take this mission to cater to a wide set of audience, clear their doubts, and help them transition to cycling. Even the senior members of the company joined in on the project. She even organized events such as heritage rides, awareness seminars, interesting engaging activities, and cycling myth busters, to involve more and more people into cycling.

Here’s a video compiled by The Better India which covers one of her campaigns, Gift a cycle where donated cycles were refurbished to procure cycles for students in need.

The Bicycle Mayor(Link)

I don’t know about research data, but even while growing up, I’ve seen people around me pick a two wheeler or a car even to commute to a place merely 1-2 kms away.

“A friend from Prague came and within two days she pointed out the people in general weren’t walking. And this wasn’t her observation of one or two people, she said she didn’t see anyone picking walking or cycling even to go the opposite end of the street.”

The cab, metro, local train, the auto, your bike, carry you to work. On a bicycle, you go.

“Thinking about health benefits, I don’t go to gym and I can eat a little extra cheese, because I know I’ll burn it off.”

Here’s a movie I was reminded of thinking about health benefits or health hazard of our sedentary lives. Wall-E. Remember the captain’s fight with the control panel!

Wall E, Nikita Lalwani, Bicycle Mayor, Vadodara, Netherlands, India, Cycle Space, The Better India

Nikita has so far facilitated all the expenses from website to cycle refurbishment all on her own, but she needs help in attending the conference in Amsterdam, if you feel you can help her bring her concept of Cycling Cities to your city, help her by donating here and visit her website to get in touch with her.

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