Someone who can encourage cycling, coordinate such events and work actively with the government to help the city cyclists. Someone like a “Bicycle Mayor”. The concept touched South India when Bengaluru appointed a “Bicycle Mayor” in August. It became the third city in the country to do so after Vadodara in Gujarat and Guwahati in Assam.
The initiative is part of an international programme by Amsterdam-based NGO ByCS that aims to ensure that by 2030, about 50 per cent of transport in cities across the world, involve cycles. In India, the project is being implemented in coordination with NGO Evangelical Social Action Forum (ESAF).
Currently, there are Bicycle Mayors in seven countries across the world and each mayor holds a term for two years. In Chennai, cyclists both young and old have been debating in social media about whether the city is ready for one such person to take the responsibility.
Even though the hot and humid Chennai is less conducive to a cyclist as compared to Bangalore’s mostly pleasant weather, Chennaiites are clamouring for such a project to take shape in the city.
Ramanujar M, founder of Cycling Yogis, said, “It will be wonderful to have someone who knows what our needs are represent the community. Bicycling lanes are the need of the hour in Chennai, and such a Bicycle Mayor could coordinate with the civic authorities to ensure that small shop owners and others do not disrupt our rides.”
He added that such an initiative could also foster a better sense of bonding among all the different groups in the city that promote cycling.
“There are more than 30-odd groups right now that specialise in different things such as endurance, heritage-related activities, racing, and so on. There is a mutual respect between everyone and a Bicycle Mayor can help develop the relationship.”
R Sairam of Madras Mustangs said that a such a mayor could really work with the Metro Rail department to promote cycling as a commuting option between the stations. “Apart from the weather, there is not much difference between Chennai and other cities that have implemented this idea… There is a lot of potential for it to work out here.”
Adding to this, Suresh Kumar LB of Tamil Nadu Cycling Club and owner of a cycling store in the city, said that Bicycle Mayor can also help spread awareness among the youth about the health benefits of cycling. “Not just encouraging a pollution-free movement and becoming fit, a Bicycle Mayor can also promote safety on roads,” said Kumar.