Interview: Amit Bhowmik, Mumbai's most determined cyclist

Interview: Amit Bhowmik, Mumbai's most determined cyclist

Yes, it's possible to ride a bicycle in Mumbai and live to tell the tale. The city's leading cycle disciple tells how to get around without a motor
Mumbai cycling
Amit: 'It's not the weather, it's not the traffic, it's the size of the city that prevents people from cycling.' Otherwise, there'd be more sights like these.
A form of Machiavellian realpolitik governs India's roads. Lorries and buses coerce their ways through traffic with their sheer size and power, overshadowing auto rickshaws and motorcycles as they bull their ways through lanes.

In the grand pecking order of the street one would think that cyclists would come second-to-last, just ahead of pedestrians. But Amit Bhowmik, founder of India's first social network for cyclists, says that despite popular belief, cycling on Indian roads is picking up pace.

Amit runs his own web solutions business and commutes to meetings on his bicycle. Creating www.cyclists.in was a perfect marriage of his two passions -- cycling and the Web.

CNNGo: Cycling in Mumbai -- are you suicidal?

Amit Bhowmik: Have you ever tried driving in Mumbai? Nothing here is perfectly safe. The general lack of civic sense on roads applies even to pedestrians.

But cycling is safer than people think because when you are cycling you are doing it on the extreme left, which is quite clear. It is quite safe to travel in Mumbai by cycle. In fact, it's safer in Mumbai than other cities in India like Bangalore where lanes are narrow.

What you really have to keep in mind is the Indian weather. I would not cycle around at three in the afternoon because I would get sunstroke.

CNNGo: What has been your scariest moment on the road, when you have been glad for quick reflexes?

Bhowmik: There have been quite a few, actually. One of the scariest moments was coming down the Peddar Road flyover where the slope is quite steep. I just barely avoided ramming into a jaywalker. I hit him slightly with my handle, but it could have been much worse, especially for me, I would have flown off the bike! So now I drive down slopes on a low gear.

The other scary moment concerned a pothole. In the day it is OK, but at night you can't see the potholes and it can really throw you off balance.

CNNGo: What deters people from cycling in Mumbai?

Bhowmik: The size of Mumbai. It is not one city, it is many cities. The average Mumbaiker travels about 2.5 hours a day on public transport. Imagine that on a cycle. In fact, it's not the weather, it's not the traffic, it's the size of the city that prevents people from cycling.

CNNGo: What cycle do you ride?

Bhowmik: I have a handmade Orbea road bike from Spain. I ordered it from a private dealer in Pune, but there are a few good cycle shops in Mumbai that sell great bikes and all the gear.

CNNGo: What is your absolute favorite cycle route?

Bhowmik: My favorite ride, which I do solo, is from Santa Cruz to Marine Drive and back. I have a watermelon juice on Chowpatty, listen to some music on my iPod, stretch my legs and head home. It is amazing.

For bikes, gear and more, Amit recommends:

Gear The Bike Shop
Fatima Villa, 29th Road Pali Naka, Bandra West
tel. +91 (0)22 2640 9139
www.gearindia.in

Firefox Bikestation
Shop No. 11, Block 2, Hiranandani Meadows, G Alwaris Road, Off Pokhran Road 2, Thane
tel. +91 (0) 22 2173 0061
www.cyclists.in

Raised in several cities across India, Tarini's constant search for new homes forms the basis of her desire to explore incessantly.
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