Cycling in India is seen as a blue-collar worker’s or teenager’s mode of transport, or a fitness enthusiast’s passion. However, cycling can be humankind’s solution to global warming, as replacing a car ride with a bicycle ride on some or most days can drastically cut fossil fuel emissions.
Celebrating World Bicycle Day (June 3) reminds us of all the good that can come from riding a bicycle and creating bicycle-friendly infrastructure.
The bicycle ought not to be treated as a stepping stone to a more “affluent” vehicle. It can hold its own in world cities, and can significantly contribute to the goal of “net zero”, a state where greenhouse gas emission from human activities is completely neutralised by emission mitigation measures.
In rural India, cycling is empowerment through mobility, especially for women. In urban India, cycling on dedicated tracks is an invigorating and inexpensive mode of commute that can also decongest the roads.
Many Indian celebrities cycle regularly, and startups dedicated to cycling are trying to popularise the environment-friendly two-wheeler. One of the most noteworthy entrepreneurial efforts related to cycling is ‘Project Carbon Shunya’, launched by Sabeer Bhatia, co-founder of Hotmail and Showreel. A media statement says: “The project spreads awareness about the importance of sustainable transportation and inspires others to adopt cycling as a way of life.”
Shunya means “zero” in Sanskrit, so the project name makes it obvious that its goal is to promote zero-carbon transportation. Project Carbon Shunya was inaugurated in Delhi in February 2023 by Anurag Singh Thakur, Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting and Youth Affairs & Sports, and attracted the participation of 60 cycling enthusiasts from Delhi.
As for the celebrity role models for India’s bicycle lovers — or for those who need some encouragement to ride a bike — there’s a long list of names, including supermodel and Bollywood actor Milind Soman, an age-no-bar fitness icon; actress, adventure lover and former beauty queen Gul Panag; Bollywood superstar Salman Khan; and cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar. All of these famous people make cycling look like the fun and energising activity that it is. Gul Panag has, in fact, promoted cycling as an instrument of women’s empowerment and inclusivity.
On World Bicycle Day, ride your bike and feel free with the wind in your hair.
World Bicycle Day