New Delhi, June 6 (IANS) Pedestrians stare, motorists mock, but Rajeev Arora rides along on his bicycle unfazed. The 72-year-old says cycling is his 'second love, first being single malt whisky'.
'I swear by cycling. I encourage my children and grandchildren to cycle. I cycle rigorously every day for almost two hours. It allows me to de-stress completely,' Arora told IANS.
He is not the only one for whom cycling is a passion and who considers it a way of life. The capital has its Delhi Cycling Club, which was started in 2001 with just two members but today has over 600.
'There was a need to start a cycling club because it connects people to people and is a cheap mode of transportation,' said Nalin Sinha, founder and convener of the club.
'Swanky cars and motorbikes are a source of social differentiation. There is no end to acquisition of these material things and the scale grows vertically, while cycles equalise society and help maintain a horizontal existence,' Sinha told IANS.
'A second hand bicycle will cost you somewhere between 500 and 1,000 rupees. After that initial minimal investment, there are no running costs while on the other hand vehicles that run on fuel demand constant maintenance and also increase your expenditure,' he said.
Another cycling enthusiast is Ashita Murgai. Managing editor with a publishing house, she took part in a 20-km bicycle ride in January this year.
'I absolutely adore cycling. Each morning I use my bicycle to go to the office from South Extension to Greater Kailash. It is the most economical way of commuting and it is completely eco-friendly,' said Murgai.
Cycling has also become a fad for many who are focussed on a healthy lifestyle or are environmentally conscious.
'Every day we hear stories of global warming and its effects on the environment. We cyclists try to do our part by not contributing further to an already escalating menace. We don't burn fuel and pollute,' said Gurvinder Singh, 24, a design engineer and member of the club.
Branding himself a cycling 'addict' Singh said: 'I am a health freak. I hate the idea of being unhealthy or even being overweight. Since the whole day I sit in front of my computer and work, my life has become sedentary. Cycling is the only exercise I get.'
Sixty-six-year-old Surendra Gupta is one of the oldest members of the club and believes he is still young at heart because of cycling.
'I'm a sports fanatic and I still play table tennis. I'm constantly in search of new adventures. My age does not stop me. I love cycling and am looking forward to a cross country cycling expedition later this year,' said Gupta.
However, the members of the club and other cyclists are unhappy with the lack of facilities for them.
'We are seen as the marginalised ones. Other than the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) road during the wee hours of the day, none of the Delhi roads is safe for cyclists. There are no safety provisions for us. The worst thing is that cycles are seen as a hindrance on the road,' said Prashant, a cycling enthusiast.
'Delhi roads are wide and can be a haven for riders if the government can develop separate bicycle lanes,' he added.
Citing examples of western countries, Sinha said many countries have long distance public transport that has carriers to accommodate bicycles so that they can be used to commute short distances. 'We should also try to develop such facilities for cyclists,' he added.
Arora sums up his passion by saying: 'Cycling is therapeutic in all senses. It helps me stay fit both mentally and physically. Look at me. Do I look 72?'