THE City Beautiful offers its inhabitants a relatively safe and pleasurable cycling experience. There are cycleways shaded by green trees, and special cycle paths at roundabouts. Apart from those who use cycles for their daily activities, one can notice enthusiasts on their geared cycles with special helmets, lights, water bottles, horns and neon reflectors. These may cost anywhere from a few thousand to a few lakhs.
In our younger days, cycles were the main means of transport in the city. Middle class families in the 1950s and ’60s mainly used cycles. Cars were rare, and not many could afford even a scooter. Most students and office-goers used cycles. Sports cycles were rare and a curiosity. Most people knew everything about their bicycles, and many would service them at home weekly or fortnightly. Families could be seen travelling on bicycles —children sitting on the front bar and women on the carrier, at times holding a baby. Very few women rode cycles then. Later cars and bikes overtook the city, and cycles became the vehicle of the poor worker.
Being reinitiated into cycling after almost half a century, many of my colleagues, some retired, are rediscovering the joys of cycling. Some have combined their morning walk with cycling. Many early morning walkers arrive at the lake on cycles and then walk the length and breadth of the lake. They have found that cycling has toned up their body, and provides additional health benefits. It is a great exercise to get rid of body fat, and strengthening the heart and leg muscles.
Various groups of cyclists have organised themselves into different bodies and undertake regular excursions to nearby places. One such group has members from different walks like doctors, professors, engineers, and even students and retirees. They have participated in functions held by the Chandigarh administration to promote cycling in the city.
I find cycling is a great equaliser. Leaving behind the luxury of your car, on a cycle you can feel the challenges of the common man on the cycle from heat, cold, and rain — the greatest being the danger of being hit by a rash driver on a motor vehicle. But the thrill of cycling and the satisfaction of using an economical and environment-friendly mode of transportation is far greater. Cycling is in fashion, but we should also use our cycles to go to work and for day-to-day marketing. Many of the most beautiful cities in the world have developed this culture and the people there are healthier and happier.
It is true that life always comes a full circle. As for me, I feel cycling once again fills the life of the elderly with childlike joy, and more than that, a sense of achievement!