On the evening of October 22, 2022, the streets of over 70 Indian cities were lit up, not by street lamps, but by cyclists! Hundreds of cyclists from across the country came together in a nationwide activity as they demanded Cities For Cyclists. These climate warriors ‘lit up’ their cycles in a bid to reclaim the streets that have been systemically denied to them. Citizens gathered to decorate their bicycles with flowers and lights, and carried placards to demand cycle-friendly cities for equitable and breathable cities.
But, why pivot our mobility towards cycles? In India, the transport sector contributes 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and more than 80 percent of Indian cities/towns exceed the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). At the same time, 50.4 percent of Indian households own a bicycle, whereas only 7.5 percent own cars. Yet, our mobility infrastructure continues to be car-centric instead of people-centric.
Cyclists are the ‘invisibilized’ champions of sustainable cities, and empowering cyclists will help India achieve its Sustainable Development Goals. Cycles also help improve the socio-economic conditions of marginalised sections of our population with increased mobility and accessibility. Hence, cyclists must be supported with cycle-friendly infrastructure, adequate space on the streets, and a cultural shift among all citizens towards sustainable mobility systems.
Cities for Cyclists was a celebration—one that witnessed a strong show of solidarity from over 20 Indian states. After all, a city for cyclists is a city for citizens!
It was a sight to behold in the national capital as over 50 cyclists proudly flaunted their brightly lit cycles in the backdrop of the Qutub Minar. The activity in Delhi was organised by Greenpeace India in close collaboration with the Power The Pedal community of women cyclists, Green Pencil Foundation, Greenpeace volunteers, and Environics Trust. The event saw participation from livelihood and recreational cyclists alike as they demanded #CitiesForCyclists.
“In India, there was a time when this (cycle) was the only mode of transport accessible to a majority of the population. People still want to use bicycles for their daily commute but hesitate because of safety concerns. Along with safer infrastructure, we need to sensitise our fellow citizens who use other vehicles that cyclists and pedestrians have equal rights to use the road and they should respect our due space on the streets,” said Dalip Sabharwal, Bicycle Mayor of Delhi.
Kolkata – The City Of Joy looked joyous indeed as brightly decked cycles came onto the streets to demand their right to have equal access to city roads. Greenpeace India co-organised the activity with Kolkata Cycle Samaj and BYCS, who have been actively campaigning against the ban on cyclists in some of the city streets. Students from Gouribari Free Cycle Training School, which includes many women and children, actively participated in the event.
“We require city planning to take a new turn, and to create safe passages for cyclists. Cycling is a particularly well-suited form of transport for city life. It keeps people healthy, connected and happy. As part of Gouribari Free Cycle Training School, we have trained over 60 new cyclists. Today, we are doing this event locally in Gouribari so that our learners can participate and our message can be spread further. We are bringing cyclists out on the streets in the hope that the government will take notice of this important movement,” said Sunish Deb, Kolkata Cycle Samaj.
In the IT city, women cyclists left their workplace for the day to decorate their cycles and make a strong statement! The Power The Pedal community, decorated their cycles with lights and placards to highlight the significance of cycles as a means of accessing their livelihood, healthcare, education and leisure. Their message to citizens and lawmakers: Women cyclists are here to reclaim the streets!
“It is difficult to walk everywhere. Since I got the cycle six months back, I have been cycling to work, to the market and even to shop. But it is scary to cycle when there is heavy traffic. If we get a separate lane it will help us. I am decorating my cycle today with lights and making a video of it with the aim of reaching the decision makers with this demand. Cyclists need space on the streets,” says Noor Begum, a cyclist associated with the Power The Pedal community.
In the small town of Jamui, Bihar, cyclists from Greenpeace India and Cycle Yatra Ek Vichar decided to celebrate the festival with lights and cycles! Cycle Yatra Ek Vichar is a movement working towards environmental protection and environmental awareness among the community through regular, weekly campaigns.
Vivek Kumar, Founder-member of Cycle Yatra Ek Vichaar, said, “Climate change is affecting everyone. But in today’s fast-paced life, no one is trying to fight to save the planet. Our ancestors planted saplings for future generations but we are damaging their gift. With today’s event, we want this message to reach every district of the country: People must come forward for the environment!”
Across the Nation
A growing cycling movement is coming forth and citizens are calling for change. Many cities across the world already recognise the importance of cycling for sustainable cities. We must urgently recognise the role of cyclists in the fight against air pollution and climate change—and we must do so equitably. The #CitiesForCyclists event is a much-needed wakeup call for decision makers to build cities for citizens.
Greenpeace India would like to thank our allies including Kolkata Cycle Samaj, BYCS, Green Pencil Foundation, Agartala Cycloholics Foundation, Kochi ICE Sheroes and Cycle Yatra Ek Vichar Jamui for making this wonderful celebration of cyclists possible.