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Sun, 16 Jun 2019

Northeast Today

Cycling Scene in Guwahati – Part 2

Cycling Scene in Guwahati – Part 2
April 13
20:45 2019

Part II

Continuing from last week’s article about the evolving cycling scene in Guwahati this week let us have a look at the different types of cycling events in the city and something more.

Rallies are organised mostly to propagate a message or support a cause. Some of the important rallies organised were Pedal against drug abuse in 2018 by various NGOs, Saksham Cyclothon by PCRA in 2018 and 2019 to spread awareness about petroleum conservation, Tourism Day rallies by Assam Tourism dept in 2017 and 2018, Cycle Rally to spread awareness about organ donation by ROTTO in 2018 and many others. Rallies tend be short city rides of 10 to 20 kms and these attract a lot of people.

Apart from rallies different community or group cycle rides also get organised. These rides are mainly social events where people enjoy riding in and around the city. The biggest cycle ride in the region being the Freedom Ride, organised to celebrate India’s Independence Day, by a group called (Guwahati Cycle Tour) GCT who had organised it two years in a row since 2017 and intends to make it an annual event. Last year Freedom Ride 2018 saw more than 300 cyclists ride together to celebrate India’s 72nd Independence Day.

Community rides such as Holi Ride, Diwali ride, Picnic ride and also on other occasions are organised regularly by the members of GCC. An annual cycling event called Guwahati Cyclothon is organised by an organisation called Everything Outdoors. Yet another group called WOW Cyclothon organizes cycle rides targeting women. A few of the cycle stores have their own groups and organize weekly rides to encourage their new and old customers. One such active group is Wonder Wheels Brotherhood. A group named Jajabor used to organize long distance group rides to nearby towns. The group came into prominence when they had ridden from Guwahati to Saikhowaghat in the first part of 2017. One more group called Cycling Zone works differently by making videos of cycling events and the rides they undertake near the city.

To whet the appetite of those who are competitively inclined different types of races are also organised by different groups. One of the earlier group called Wheelion used to organise long distance endurance races as well as short distance uphill race till last year. Then there was this whole series of different races being organised under a name called GBCh (Guwahati Bicycle Championships). The biggest and the most followed race till date in Guwahati was the 1st edition of Assam Downhill Championships, held in September 2018, where participants came from different parts of the country.

There is this format of cycling longer distances called brevet or BRMs. These are mainly long distance timed endurance rides. BRMs are self supported endurance rides where riders ride for distances like 200 / 300 / 400 / 600 / 1000 / 1200 kms within specified time limits in routes having control points,. These are internationally recognized events and in Guwahati these are organised by Guwahati Randonneurs.

All the above mentioned groups and events do not come under the ambit of the state sports association and are being organised by people out of their own interest and passion. The sports cycling scene in the state will be covered in a future article.

In spite of there being many cycling groups and events happening all round the year in the city there are many people who stay out and ride solo. Again there are those people who like to tour on their cycles. Touring is an activity where cyclists load up their cycles with the most necessary items and ride from one place to another for many days, weeks, months or even years. Although cycle tourers travelling for months or years are mostly foreigners who pass through the region on their way towards south east Asia there is a small albeit growing number of people who go out on short weekend tours or month long tours around the state. In 2017 two boys from Tezpur rode all way from their hometown to Laddakh on their cycles in nearly 40 days.

Among all the people who use cycles it’s the people who use it to ride to work that is the most unorganized and silent. Although this set of people are mostly poor who ride their bicycle out of compulsion or the young students who too ride it as they don’t have a choice there is a very small but growing number of people who have chosen to ride to work on their cycles. Some highly educated professionals in the city have made it a habit to cycle for their work in all weather conditions. It is this set of people who need all the support and encouragement to carry on cycling to their work. It is this set of people who can make the biggest positive impact on the growing pollution and congestion levels in our city. It is this set of people which needs to grow if we are to have a clean and healthy city.

If more people are to use their cycles to commute for their work then the city needs to give them better facilities like safe & covered parking spaces, dedicated cycling lanes. Educational institutes and Offices need to provide parking areas to their students and employees. All government and private organizations also need to provide facilities like shower rooms to their employees and if possible provide incentives to those who pedal to work. The motor vehicle driving population needs to respect the cyclists. Organisations, both public and private, will have to frame policies and processes to encourage cycling to work.

But on an individual level we also need to start taking responsible decisions to make our future clean and healthy and taking up cycling is, without any doubt, the best one.

Arshel Akhter - The writer is a cycling enthusiast who also happens to be the Bicycle Mayor of Guwahati. This is an honorary and non political positions given to him by a Netherlands based social enterprise called BYCS. He also runs a project called Pedal for a Change to promote cycling and cyclists in the region.

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