“I have been riding a bicycle for years, but this is the first time somebody respected me and honoured me for this.” These were the words of Kiran Nikam, an industrial worker, when he was greeted with a rose for riding a bicycle on 26th April, the first ‘Cycle Day’ in Nashik. The ‘Cycle Day’, a joint effort by the Marathi newspaper Sakal, Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) and ITDP, is a part of the larger movement to promote non-motorised transport (NMT) as a safe, comfortable way of commuting around the city.
Nashik, situated in north-west Maharashtra, is witnessing rapid motorization and congestion, but like other Indian cities, lacks good infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. ITDP has been working with NMC to promote a transportation paradigm where the focus is on public transportation, pedestrians and bicycles. To achieve this end, there needs to be a visible demand for these facilities with elevation of the social status of bicycles and public transport.
When ITDP and Sakal discussed how to build support for cycling and raise demand for better cycling infrastructure, Sakal proposed a ‘Cycle Day’, which would in turn encourage the next generation to use cycles as a safe and acceptable mode for commuting. The team from Sakal headed by editor Shrimant Mane handled the outreach and community engagement, with support from NMC and technical assistance from ITDP.
The initiative kicked off with a pre-event launch on April 12th, which was attended by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Nashik, officials from other important government departments and notable residents of the city, who extended their support to the initiative. “NMC is committed to safety of cyclists, and I personally support the need to create the necessary infrastructure,” said Ashok Murtadak, the Mayor.
As a run-up to the event, a 12 km Cycle Rally was conducted on Sunday, April 24th, and the wide media outreach by Sakal helped in getting a turnout of about 250 enthusiastic cyclists- school children, men and women of all ages, and even the Mayor riding the entire course with the participants. A member of Nashik Cyclist Association joined the rally after completing a long-distance ‘brevet’ of 200 km the previous night, and Sanjay Gaay, a person with special needs also completed the rally on his tricycle. With the conclusion of the successful rally, the Mayor announced that NMC would create a bicycle friendly greenway this year.
After the right spirit created ahead of the Cycle Day, people used the Monday to borrow bikes or dust theirs off, to make sure that they are seen riding one on Tuesday and their efforts certainly paid off : the Cycle Day recorded a 26 percent increase in cyclists as compared to a normal day. (This data was gathered from surveys that ITDP conducted at critical locations along with volunteers from ‘Young Inspirator’s Network’.)
Government employees across various ranks pedaled their way to work to send the right signal to the people, the private sector was not too far behind with many companies ceremoniously welcoming employees who cycled to work, and even some school teachers cycled 30 km to work on a hot summer day.
With the passion that cyclists showed on the Cycle Day and the backing received from NMC, it is evident that the city still loves the bicycle, and ITDP is optimistic that Nashik will soon see serious investments on bicycle-friendly infrastructure to pave the way to a cleaner, healthier city.