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:: Sunday, March 16, 2008 ::

Cycling in the City

Slowly and steadily, I am venturing farther and farther with my bicycle. I had never before cycled in city's heavily crowded main roads. Until recently I had only heard from others that riding on those two slim wheels is not the safest mode of transport. All those 'others' had done a good job in scaring me, which means I ventured out only in the odd non-peak hours and did not go beyond a few kilometers. But I kept going farther by the day and faced more aggressive drivers, and finally at times immersing myself in the big mean and noisy thing called peak hour traffic.

People who warned me of the dangers were very right. For some reason, every driver and rider who is gifted with the controls of an internal combustion engine seems to, miraculously, become blind to bicycles. When they turn left or right, or go in the wrong lanes or in the opposite direction in a one way as typical of us proud Bangaloreans, they somehow manage to see all those giant buses and trucks and even cars very clearly. And then they seem to get attracted to bicycles and at the same time don't get to see it, and end up trying hard to drive straight into the cyclist. That means the cyclist must start his ride with an attitude to be prepared to run or prepared to get banged. Most people choose the farmer option but still, fairly often we see riders who have ended up with the later.

The worst enemies of the cyclist are the cars and trucks parked illegally on the roads that have so lovingly planted 'no parking' signs. Time and again I come across them and am left with a difficult decision to move away from the comfort of the curb and to the center of the road. And moving to the center of the road often involves having to face the 'bicycle-blind' drivers in the heavy traffic. I have still been a chicken and often get down and then get into the footpath. But then how many of our roads have footpaths? The next big enemies are the two wheelers who just love riding on the extreme right side of the road, or in case of a double road, on the opposite side. There are so many such people, I have a feeling Bangalore has a cult of such riders. The third enemy is the cyclist himself, who I have seen, often jumps signals and cuts tersely into the center of the road oblivious to the fact that everyone else pretends to be blind to his presence. And soon after he cuts tersely, goes bang!

Five kilometers is as far away from home that I have ventured yet. I would love to sneak out farther early in the mornings but haven't done that so far. But then, cycling is love, and I know I will be spending more and more time with it. It has been such fun riding just for the sake of it. And it is keeping me from the guilt of burning fuel, and contributing to the already horrible traffic with my automobiles. Come, let's build cycling culture in this 'once-green' city; I am sure you will enjoy it.

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