Cycling to Work

Benighted

I’m called the Marquis de Chandivali.

The office is in Chandivali and it’s not pretty getting there from anywhere. Cost cutting dictated that we move from the prestigious Prism at Mindspace, Malad to Chandivali.

There is this really special friend of mine, who would call me and whenever he called, through some strange coincidences, I would be on the bike either on my way to Chandivali, or on my way back home.

Therefore, the name, Marquis de Chandivali.

Anyways now that I have my title…..

Not Pretty

Getting to Chandivali from Bandra, by whatever means of transport is not an enjoyable experience. Not by any stretch of the imagination. By car, by rickshaw, by anyhow. Getting there means contending with horrendous traffic, especially at the turn off from the Highway to Sahar, then at the Leelavati Junction and all the way to Sakinaka. I would take a minimum of an hour to traverse the 16 odd km to work, so go figure the average.

Cycling to Work – Advantages

Whenever I had to go in on a Saturday or a Sunday, I would take my bike to work, and thus dawned the realization that perhaps its simply more practical to bike to work, as it would take me all of 45/50 minutes. Added to that, it gave me a sense of achievement, that I was being eco-friendly, I was working out. I arrived at work free of stress, no road rage, I arrived home free of stress, as cycling helped me to ease out of the work day pretty nicely. Win, win, win.

See I have to get my morning cuppa coffee at Gloria Jeans, or what used to be Gloria Jeans and is now Krispy Kreme. Well they promised that the coffee would still be Gloria, but I think that’s a bunch of bull. As I was waiting for it to re-open as Krispy Kreme, I ended up stopping off at Starbucks, Khar. Once I realized that the cuppa quality, aroma, etc was never gonna be of the Gloria standards, I figured that I would end up at Starbucks once again. Anyway this is supposed to be about cycling, right? So let’s cut to the chase by saying that I did end up at Starbucks, albeit, this time around it was at the outlet closer to my apartment.

Challenges Galore

So getting out of Bandra via the by lanes running from Bandra all the way to Santacruz is a synch, since I avoid most of the traffic lights (called traffic robots in Zimbabwe). But then you get to the road from the Santacruz Police Station leading up to the Milan ROB (Rail Over Bridge) as they are calling it, and that stretch is a total mess. The option is to take the right from the Police Station and hit the main road, but that’s even worse than the other approach.

Once you get past the desperate and chaotic morning traffic and hit the ROB you’re fine, temporarily, that is, until you hit the Sahar Junction. Then some more jostling and then the fast stretch all the way to the Leela Junction on the Andheri – Kurla Road. Of course it does help when you ride a heavily customized, full suspension, mountain bike, called Iron Horse-Warrior Pro, courtsey The Chief of Pro9, Faisal Thakur.

Tried Saki Naka a few times but you end up inhaling more fumes that you would care to imagine, and have to dismount every few minutes, what with traffic that comes to a standstill every few meters, so the best bet is the Military Road (no idea why it’s called that), which brings you to the Saki Vihar Road.

Just a short stretch of jammed cars, trucks, buses, tempos, scooters, mo’bikes, and you’re at the Chandivali Farm/Studio Road junction and then you’re home safe.

The ride in peak traffic is challenging to say the very least, but hey! I like the challenge, and I can’t miss my coffee, can I? I’m a bit of a traffic junkie, and nothing gets the adrenaline going better for me as I zip through traffic. Seen Premium rush? Now that the kind of riding I do when in traffic. Extremely challenging, but satisfying at the same time.

The one thing that stands out when you bike to work is just how disrespectful and aggressive most people are towards cyclists. The only saving grace are the cops who have got used to seeing me daily, and wave me through bad traffic, when they see me at the head of the mad herd.

I’ve said it before and I say it again, many of the cycling fraternity are talking about getting special bike lanes, etc and I think they are missing the plot. There are no lanes, there is no discipline, there is no mercy or consideration. Good Luck guys, I think its only getting worse! They think it’s a bunch of rich kids, riding fancy bikes, mostly for pleasure. Try riding to work every day people, you have some waking up to do.

So the only way you’re going to be noticed and heard is if the community takes to the streets and rides to work on busy roads, instead of these fancy bike clubs, and just waiting around for the facilities to get created. Lest I’m not interpreted incorrectly, I’m all for awareness, but if you’re actually looking at reducing the carbon situation and achieving other such dreams, a lot more need to get on the roads, and brave the daily commute, traffic, indiscipline, ill-treatment, danger and the like, and allow these dreams to turn into reality.

The Smart Commute

A few years ago, I started hearing about a Cycle2Work initiative, spearheaded by Firoza and some other noble souls, and being a daily cyclist, I knew they have their work cut out.

The Smart Commute is encouraging Bombay to embrace cycling as a viable alternative to commute to work.

At first I thought that this was a rather ambitious initiative that would fade away, but its been several years and this initiative is certainly gaining momentum.

You can know more about this initiative by clicking on the following links:

Indiainfoline ArticleMid-day ArticleYou Tube Video.

If you want to connect with this initiative, they even have a Facebook Page.

They now even have an app available for Android, that assists in setting up rides, tracking rides, and getting the whole Cycle2Work initiative into the palm of your hand. Called The Smart Commute (Beta), you can easily download it from the Google Play Store.

Awareness is the Beginning

An awareness of this alternate means of transport, is merely the beginning. A lot needs to be done, in terms of making cycling safe, providing adequate facilities both at the government level and at the corporate end as well, such as parking, bike lanes, shower and changing facilities, all with the intent of encouraging this super initiative.

Me? I’m hooked and don’t need to be preached to, but I certainly don’t mind doing the preaching. As always, lead by example, and what the heck, I just love it, so guess what? I’m on a bike to work, and that’s how its going to remain for the foreseeable future.

Each stop I make, whether for coffee at a coffee-shop, whether I bike to an important meeting at a 5 star hotel, or I show up for an interview (well I did this once), I can see the admiration in the eyes of the people who I meet, the people who I interact, with my co-workers. I get this look, saying, “I wish”, and my rather simple response to that is, WHY NOT?

One time I checked into the Hyatt, and I rode in on my cycle with backpack. You can imagine the reaction of the hotel staff, right from the security at the gate, to the security at the lobby entrance, to the front office staff. Well, it’s an entirely different matter, that they were so very impressed, that they parked the bike at the lobby entrance for the duration of my stay. The bike did look mighty impressive, so that may have helped, and it may have just been my swag, but still….

Get on a bike people, its fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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