As social distancing now becomes a necessary norm, many cities around the world are taking to cycling, closer to home, experts are working together to put together a feasible mobility plan for Mumbai. While it is a broad plan, it also looks at cycling being one of the primary modes of transport, especially with the crowds plying the trains and buses daily. City-based architect Pranav Naik, who is a part of the team, uses the cycle to travel to work every day thinks it is the easiest transport option, making it ideal for times like these. “Cycling is an inherently physically distanced mode of transport. The physical form of the bicycle forces users to stay distanced from other cyclists,” says Pranav, who prefers to use the term physical distancing than social distancing, as people should be encouraged to nurture social bonds. The rider, who has been cycling for six years. adds, “My daily ride is averagely 20km, and on occasion, I ride 40-50km in a day, when I visit sites and I have never felt tired or repented by decision.”
Cycling on the streets
The team is currently working with Mumbai’s bicycle mayor, Firoza Suresh, to present a dossier of solutions to the government. Firoza, who started the Cycle2Work initiative in 2012 to encourage more people to take up cycling says she has positively seen a lot more people take to riding cycles. Suggesting the reverse traffic pyramid plan, she explains, “Switching to cycling and walking is the only logical way as a lot is going to change going forward because people will be hesitant to use shared mobility like cabs, public transport like buses and auto-rickshaws.” However, she doesn’t encourage people to take up long distances immediately, not only because it requires a lot of practice but also because not many offices are equipped with shower facilities.
“Riding for 8-9 kilometres is possible without aches and pains and doesn’t allow dust and sweat to settle as it would with a 25-30 kilometre ride, which can only be done by a physically fit person,” she adds. Firoza says riding the first mile and walking the last mile is the easiest way to start. For safety purposes, she reminds people to take busy routes and have a riding partner, especially during the lockdown, to avoid any untoward incidents like mugging, which may become a possibility due to unemployment.
While cycling is perfect for a populated city like Mumbai, during and after the pandemic, there is no doubt that it also has various health benefits, which easily makes it a preferred option for people living close to their workplaces. Dr Shreyas Katharani, head of physiotherapy department, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, thinks it is the perfect time to start cycling. He says, “Cycling immediately improves blood circulation, which affects your mood and lowers stress levels and helps improve concentration levels. It also helps build core strength and improve the abdominal and back muscles. It is also good for the thighs.” He adds that it also helps manage your weight and reduce body fat level and increase metabolism.