At a time when the humble bicycles have become mere exercise machines, a few shops in Chennai still continue to hire cycles for the common man. Albeit with limited number of cycles, these (hire cycle) shops are thronged by workers from the construction sector.
“Carpenters, masons and painters are our major customers,” says Suresh, who is running a hire cycle shop at of Rengarajapuram in Kodambakkam. “Workers with the construction industry prefer bicycles, as they can reach remote areas, where public transport is not available. Our tariff is Rs 3 per hour and if a customer hires a cycle for 24 hours, we offer them at a flat rate of Rs 25,” he added.
Bicycles were once the most sought after mode of transport for a good chunk of Chennaities, who pedalled to their destinations. This resulted in mushrooming of hire cycle shops that had heralded the street corners of the city, till two decades ago.
Ranganathan, a hire cycle shop owner at Saidapet said that as many as 130 hire cycle and repairing shops were functioning in West Saidapet alone, about 20 years ago. “We even launched an association, comprising of hire cycle owners to fix tariff and repairing charges for bicycles. But, when school students got free bicycles, our business started to fade away,” he observed.
Hire cycle owners also underscore that paucity for labour was another major reason for the decline in the trade. “I am still interested in reviving my hire cycle shop, but only if I can find the right people to help run the shop,” Ranganathan stressed. He just wound up his hire cycle shop a month ago, but not without a lot of remorse.