A Conversation With Arshel Akhter- the Bicycle Mayor of Guwahati

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We talk to the Arshel Akhter, the Bicycle Mayor of Guwahati about the Bicycle Councillors of Guwahati that is being initiated by him.

What is this Bicycle Councillors program?

We have a vision to make Guwahati the most cycling friendly city in India by 2030 and this can be achieved only when many voices sing in unison and make their voices heard and respected. A cycling friendly city is one where people of all sections of the society, of all age groups, all gender and all professions feel free and encouraged to use cycles to go to any part of the city during any time of the day. In such a city people will feel safe and motivated to cycle to their work, students will cycle to their school or college and people can go out for their marketing. A cycling friendly city will have dedicated cycling lanes, covered and safe cycle parking stands at different parts of the city, bicycle rental or sharing for last mile connectivity, cycle repair stations across the city and many more such facilities.

To achieve this vision we are looking for some like-minded and conscious people who would help us. We will need their support to encourage and motivate people from all sections of the society to use cycles, to impress upon the government the need and importance of creating cycling infrastructure and also to later on provide suggestions and support the government for such cycling facilities.
The idea is to bring such interested and passionate people under one platform and give their role the name as Bicycle Councillor.

Another idea is to find the next Bicycle Mayor for Guwahati. My tenure is for 4 years and it will end by April 2022. The best performing Bicycle Councillor will be nominated for the position of Bicycle Mayor of Guwahati.

Presently Guwahati is divided into 31 wards and accordingly there will be 31 ward councillors. This will result in cycling advocates in each ward and they can work towards promoting cycling in those wards.

What are the roles and responsibilities of Bicycle Councillors?

The Bicycle Councillors will work in their locality / ward by encouraging people to take up cycling as a mode of transport. Whenever possible they will speak or write or share information about benefits of cycling through various mediums and forums. They will also organise or help in organising different kinds of engaging cycling events, activities, campaigns – locally at their ward levels and for the whole city. They will engage with the local and city authorities for better cycling facilities and infrastructure. They will oversee the cycling progress of a particular ward in the city and maintain regular communication with the ward level stakeholders like the councillor and other city administrators. The Bicycle Councillors will work closely with the support, guidance and advice of the Bicycle Mayor and in full cooperation of the entire team.

Is this program running anywhere else?

The Bicycle Councillor program is recognised and endorsed by BYCS, a social enterprise from Amsterdam, Netherlands. It is the same organisation that confers the Bicycle Mayor position. It was first implemented in Bengaluru and then in Mumbai by the respective Bicycle Mayors.
In Guwahati the program is being supported by Pedal for a Change and The Green Lane Foundation.

Is there any selection criteria and process?

We have tried to be very inclusive and are open to people from all sections of society. Any Indian citizen, of any gender between the ages of 18 to 65 can apply. Regarding education one just needs to be 12th pass.

The selection process is divided into two stages. In the first stage interested people apply through the online form by submitting their details and answer a few questions. Each question carries some marks and the top 2-3 candidates, having the highest marks from each ward will be called for the2nd stage – a personal interview. The interview will be taken by a panel, consisting of conscientious citizens of the city, and will be conducted online.

How has been the response?

The reaction and response has been mixed with some wards having multiple applicants and some wards very few. However, we are happy that some very passionate people have applied and we are sure these people will take the movement forward. Many of them are not well known faces from the known active cycling groups in the city but people who look forward to contributing to the well-being of the city they live in.

We are looking for some really committed and passionate people. We intend to look for the right candidate with the right attitude and would prefer to wait instead of selecting anyone just to fill up all the 31 positions. Cycling advocacy is serious work.

What is the last date for application?

We are also looking for more women to come up and apply for the position. Keeping this in mind we have decided to extend the last date for application till 15th October 2020 which may be extended in case we feel the need for it.

We wish Arshel Akhter all the very best for his endeavours and look forward to a cycling friendly Guwahati soon. To know more about the program and how to apply interested people can apply on the link – https://www.pedalforachange.org/bicycle-councillors-of-guwahati

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