Cycling for commuting too has its benefits. However, how feasible is it here in India? I have been cycling since a long time now and here are some of my observations.

Cycling as a commuting option

Ever since its introduction as a form of mobility, the bicycle has remained an integral part of our transport system. Even our community of petrolheads has a dedicated and flourishing thread on bicycles.

Health benefits of cycling:

1. Acts as a form of exercise. As the urban India tackles lifestyle diseases, cycling is an effective way to combat them. Effective for weight loss too.

2. Intensive cycling will strengthen your abs, lumbar muscles, glutes, pecs, arms, and all muscle groups in your legs.

3. Starting your day with cycling causes the brain to secrete the feel-good chemicals of Serotonin and Dopamine.

4. Improves your mood and allows you to be more positive.

5. It’s a conversation starter, and you meet many new people. 

Cycling for commuting too has its benefits. Some of the most significant ones include no consumption of fuel and zero pollution. In other countries, including many in Europe, people have warmed up to cycling for commuting. However, how feasible is it here in India? I have been cycling since a long time now and here are some of my observations.

I have met many cyclists from higher income groups who commute to work – sometimes upwards of 25 km one way every day. According to them, as long as you have the right kind of motivation, all other things are trivial. Trips less than 10 km are easily viable on a bicycle. These could include school trips by students, local errands, going to meet friends etc.

However, one of the biggest reasons for people not taking to cycling in the cities is the social factor. The bicycle is not looked at as an aspirational vehicle in social circles. The majority of people who commute by bicycle are from the lower income strata. They use it as a means to save money over bus / train and time compared to walking. You will spot many newspaper delivery guys, milkmen, postmen and these days, even a few of the Zomato / Swiggy guys using bicycles.  

Here’s a look at the advantages and disadvantages of using a bicycle to commute.

Advantages of cycling as a commuting option:

1. Multiple health benefits as stated above. 

2. You can park just about anywhere. You can take your cycle right up to a shop or the restaurant that you are going to and avoid the problem of finding a parking spot for your car. 

3. You can save considerable time, especially in rush hour traffic. A bicycle can move faster through traffic than a car.

4. You do not have to spend on fuel. With petrol touching Rs. 100 a liter, cycling might appeal to some.

5. You do not cause any pollution and reduce your carbon footprint. There are no emissions coming out of a bicycle.

6. You can save on toll. Bicycles are allowed to go free almost anywhere.

Disadvantages of cycling as a commuting option:

1. Shower facilities at work are a necessity, especially considering the hot, humid and dusty conditions prevalent in our country.  

2. It is not as safe as a car. While you are always more aware on a cycle, there is an inherent risk in sharing the road with motorized vehicles. Besides, you have to look out for potholes and bad patches on the road.

3. Most of the road infrastructure has been designed keeping motorized vehicles in mind. Things like junctions, flyovers etc. could be a tricky to use particularly for a novice cyclist.

4. Theft is a big problem. There are very few dedicated places for parking bicycles making them prone to theft.

5. Cycling for commute is a seasonal activity. Usually in Mumbai, it’s difficult to cycle during in the monsoon (June – September) and peak summer months (April – May).  

6. Nighttime riding is dangerous. Many roads are poorly lit and bicycle lights may not be powerful enough to provide the necessary illumination. 

Over the years, a lot of committees and reports have recommended cycling as an effective way to tackle the vehicle crowding in urban areas, but the fact remains that it is a typical hen and egg situation. Commuters want better infrastructure, while the authorities want to see a minimum number of cyclists on the road to make it worth their while.  

Wide scale adoption of cycling can save a whopping Rs. 1.8 lakh crore annually, which is equivalent to 1.6% of our GDP (TERI report). As an automobile enthusiast, I have realized that despite loving my cars, it’s the cycle that, at times, is the most effective way to get around town. I have also used my bicycle to commute to office.

At the end of the day, all that you need is the willpower to take your bicycle to work / use it for urban commuting. Here are some of the videos I have shot while riding:

A 23 km ride to work.

A trip from Navi Mumbai to IIT Powai to meet some friends:

A small errand ride on the interior roads.

And, signing off with this compilation I made after resuming cycling post lockdown.


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