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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Calling Mumbai to join cycle-to-work movement

Cycling enthusiasts Firoza Suresh and Piyush Shah have planned a cycle-to-work event on June 6 to celebrate the World Environment Day
Actor Salman Khan, who could often be seen cycling to studios, is not the only advocate of riding a bicycle to work in the city. Two cycling enthusiasts – Firoza Suresh from Juhu and Piyush Shah from Andheri – have planned a cycle-to-work day on June 6 to celebrate the World Environment Day, and have received support from the transport think tanks and the corporate houses.

The cycle-to-work days are fairly common across the world, with the US even announcing a $20 per month tax-free reimbursement for cycle-related expenses (see box). Firoza, who works for a private firm, and Shah, a corporate, have called their project titled The Smart Commute, A Cycle To Work.

"The flag-off will be around 6.45 am, and people can join in from various locations such as Worli, Chembur, Goregaon, Thane to Sofitel Hotel at the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) where there will be a small event to promote cycling," Firoza said, hoping the event will kick start a campaign to promote cycling in Mumbai and also make the city roads more safer for the cyclists. The event is aimed at inspiring people to cycle to work at least once a week.

"We are urging people from across strata to join in.

Those who don't have cycles can register as we have plans to provide them with cycles," Firoza, who cycles to her office in Nerul once a week, said. "Many in the city have expressed a desire to cycle to work. We just hope we are able to convince more and more people to join in," she said.

Firoza and Shah, who are part of a group of cycling enthusiasts, contacted a few HR executives from various corporate houses in the BKC, urging them to promote the cycle-to-work concept among their employees. "If the offices start promoting the concept, it will help reduce pollution and also decongest the city," said Shah, adding that they have put in a request to create special parking zones for bicycles, besides creating shower rooms for the employees.

A few Mumbaikars this newspaper spoke to described riding a cycle to work as a calming experience, far removed from the irritating traffic jams and inhaling vehicular smoke. Chaitanya Nayak, 55, the HR head at SBI Mutual Funds is one such professional who often cycle to work. "Earlier, I would cycle for

two-and-a-half hours from my residence in Andheri to reach the office in Cuffe Parade. Now, my office has shifted to the BKC and it just takes about an hour to ride to work. We have a shower room in office and I have inspired several of my colleagues to follow suit," Nayak, who will be participating in the June 6 event, said. Ashok Datar, chairman of the Mumbai Environment Social Network (MESN) that is supporting the concept along with transport think tanks Mumbai Transport Forum (MTF) and Embark, said that frequency of such events needed to be increased.

"A transport survey has shown that in Mumbai, 40 per cent of people commute less than six km a day for work. If some of them start cycling to work or for daily errands, the impact will be huge. If the number of cyclists grows, the government will be forced to improve the conditions," Datar said.

Bad roads are one of the major problems the cyclists are facing in the city, besides the oppressive humidity. "Weather and bad roads are a major put off for regular cyclists, who don't shy away from weekend trips but dread to go to office drenched in sweat.
Hence, we decided to make the corporate offices sensitive to the needs of employees, such as shower rooms at workplace," Firoza said. To join the event on June 6, log on to the Facebook page The Smart Commute.


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