The thought of cycling in India in the current traffic scenario is enough to give most people nightmares. I took a bike to school (in B’bay) occasionally. That was a very long time ago. Even then, as a lone woman rider, one would worry about dealing with truck and bus drivers out to have a quiet thrill chasing you off the road, comments from male pedestrians or car drivers determined to put you in your place.
Random attempts at cycling in the UK (thanks to Mr. R’s enthusiasm) didn’t really put the fire back into the leg muscles, but thankfully, not everybody has a weak spirit like mine (in addition to wobbly legs).
So here we are in Goa, a far cry from England’s cycling paths and from Bombay’s non-existent cycle culture (except for this – woo hoo!). Goa’s somewhat quiet village roads, better maintained pavements and the presence of foreigners on bikes, surprisingly encourages one to take on the rather intimidating prospect of getting on a cycle and pedalling around, at least in your neighbourhood.
Mr. R brought his geared biked back from England (despite my deep scepticism about the possibility of actually using it in Goa’s rowdy traffic – I stand corrected and gladly withdraw my scepticism in this case).
Once unpacked and put back into working order (by the same cycle shop he has used since he was a child), the bike got its first taste of Indian roads. In Mr. R’s words, it rode like a “dream”. There has been no looking back since then. Mr.R now cycles locally wherever he can. Not just that, in one of those rare serendipitous occurrences, we now see cyclists everywhere. Ordinary Hero bikes carry ordinary people – the workers, the baker with his basket full of pau, the women in saris peddling away, the foreigners defying the rush of motorbikes and cars…
Mr.R’s not alone in his enthusiasm. We’ve discovered other similarly inclined people willing to use their bikes not just for fun, but as a mode of conveyance. This enthusiasm has led to the formation of the Goa Cycling Club, an organisation devoted to promoting safe and pleasant cycling in Goa.
So, if you’re in and around Panjim (or anywhere in Goa) and want to have a fun cycle ride on a Sunday, you know you have a bunch of other enthusiasts waiting to join you. It doesn’t matter whether you have a fancy bike or an old Hero cycle, whether you have children accompanying you or whether your cycle legs are rusty from disuse.
Take a deep breath and get your bike out on a Sunday. Enjoy the fresh river air, stop over for a hot batata-wada at the Kala or make some very interesting new friends – cycling is the cool new thing to do. Tring-Tring!