They may be jostling for space with other vehicles on the city’s roads, but bicycles have certainly not lost their charm.
Events such as Chennai Cycling, in which over 5,000 people participated in March this year, have only gone to prove that cycling is popular among Chennaiites today.
Chennai is home to many cycling groups that have grown over the past three years. These groups started off by taking long rides along the ECR and OMR during the weekends.
The members are aged between six and 60 and comprise school and college students, working professionals and homemakers.
“For the youth, it’s the love of cycling, while for adults, it is about fitness and nostalgic memories.” says Suhail Ahamed, who heads Choosemybicycle.com, an online portal for cycling enthusiasts.
Chennai has a professional cycling team Mad Rascals, which specialises in speed trials, a heritage tour cycling team called Chennai yogis that visits historical sites as part of cycling expeditions, besides other groups like CRX Reaxion cycling, the Tamil Nadu Cycling Club for individual time trials and speed-based events, and the Madras Randonneurs for long distance cycling.
Ramanujar Moulana, who started Cycling Yogis, says that growth of social networking sites like Facebook has helped cycling networks grow fast, and credits cycling groups like CRX Reaxion cycling and Tamil nadu Cycling club with taking the initiative for revival of cycling as a community exercise. He also complimented the TI Group, which helped bring in a variety of imported and race cycles, besides sponsoring cycling events.
“The plan to build a Velodrome has been in the offing for some time now and would help in professional cycling. Chennai cycling has a community feel, while in other States like Delhi and Pune, cycling has a competitive environment,” says Suhail, who is also part of several other cycling groups in the country.
“It is not a smooth pedalling for cycling and cyclists in the city where problems like traffic snarls, road conditions and lane discipline are aplenty. Besides, it’s hard for people to come sweating to office and as such, not many travel to work in bicycles,” says Suhail.
“Building a dedicated bicycle lane won’t be a solution as it would require more space in the city, which at most times, doesn’t have space for pedestrians and would require representations from a sizeable number of people who ride bicycles daily,” he points out.
Despite all these issues, people see cycles as a means of fitness, sport and green transport.
Keeping up in this age of motor vehicles, with a renewed purpose among the people of Chennai, is something which cycling has done quite well.
“Using a cycle to cover short distances such as shops or nearby places instead of a motor vehicles helps saves fuel,” says Suhail. From being a mode of transport to a medium of staying fit, cycles have come a long way.
“Cycles are doing much better than before with regard to sales. More shops have come up across the city as more people seem to be interested in cycles. Brands such as Hero and BSA are popular among the public and fall in the price range of Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000,” says Rajeev, a cycle shop owner.
Imported brands like Firefox, B’twin, Schwinn, Trek, Bianchi, Cannondale, costing over `10,000, consisting of Hybrid’s and professional cycles, have carved a niche among cycling enthusiasts in the city.
These cycles are available through exclusive BSA showrooms across the city and at Pro-bikers, OMR.
With the help of online portals like Choosemybicycle.com, people can look for cycles (new or old) and locate a nearby dealer.