THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Prakash P Gopinath has become the first Bicycle Mayor of Thiruvananthapuram. The capital is the first city in the state to get one of its own. Prakash will hold a term of two years and has joined the elite network of cycling catalysts around the world trying to promote cycling in their respective cities. He is the 11th bicycle mayor in the country and the 30th in the world.
He is thus part of the Bicycle Mayor and Leaders Program pioneered by Amsterdam-based social enterprise BYCS which intends to promote cycling in each city through bicycle mayors. The BYCS goes by a single aim- '50by30:' in which they dream of making 'half of all the city trips by bike by 2030'. Prakash, an ardent advocate of cycling, will target schools and colleges during his term. “The bicycle mayors have to create their own goals. My target is to start cycling clubs in schools and colleges in the city. The other is to pressurise the civic body on creating cycling tracks in the city roads,” says Prakash.
Bicycle mayors are elected after a set of interviews and procedures.
“It is not the technical know-how that matters - but what a person has done to promote cycling in the community," he says Prakash, who has been teaching cycling ever since he started his own cycling club - the Indus Cycling Embassy, in the city. Till date, he has taught cycling to 79 city residents and is currently teaching his 80th student. A larger per cent of the students comprises women. “There are many women out there who wanted to learn cycling when they were young and couldn't. They brush aside their desires and once they settle into family lives, they never get an opportunity to learn it. I have taught many such students,” says Prakash, who is a former employee of the Southern Railways.
For someone who depends on his bicycle for his travels, Prakash says that cycle is the fastest mode of transportation. “I use my bike only when I travel with my wife. I have found that other drivers give me preference while riding in a cycle. Also, the benefits of cycling are manifold. It is a zero pollution mode of transportation. Except while manufacturing, it leaves no carbon footprint,” says Prakash. “You aren't exhausting the world's oil supplies, you are not causing any pollution and nor adding to the traffic congestion. It is good for personal fitness and economical as well,” he adds.