sulabh swatchh bharat

Saturday, 17-November-2018

The Bicycle Mayor

An instrumentation engineer goes to Germany and, well, comes back with a mission to cycle and spread the message of urban cycling as an eco-friendly transportation mode

This one reminds us about the old Abba song… “not the girl you’d remember, but she’s still something special…” Well, the girl in question is not the ‘Nina, pretty ballerina… But she is, well, India’s first Bicycle Mayor. Nikita Lalwani is from Bangalore and she woes… with her mission.

An instrumentation engineer by profession, Nikita decided to start cycling to work three years ago, when a flyover construction ended up doubling her commute time for a mere distance of four kilometres.

“A month into the construction period and there was no commute that could take me to work without being so much time consuming and that too for such a short distance. I’d tried auto rickshaws, Scooty and even a car. As the last straw, I’d decided to borrow a friend’s cycle,” Nikita says.

Things have never been the same since. Inspiring more than a dozen of her colleagues that included many senior employees, to opt for cycling as a means of transport, Nikita found her inspiration during a visit to Germany in 2014 where she observed that a major chunk of the population used cycles for transportation late in 2014.


Surveying Trends

She followed it with conducting surveys to understand cycling trends and the varying psychological attitudes that might deter people from being not too confident to take up cycling. The Cycling Cities initiative was launched in 2015 with the vision of motivating at least one-third of the city’s population to use cycles as the main mode of transport by 2030. Supported by more than 

20 interns from cities across India, the project and much of its operations have been entirely funded by the Nikita.

Forming a pan-India team, we organised our first event at the opening of Decathlon Baroda followed by another event in Rohini, Delhi. These events included games like pedal power, smart commute and cycling myth busters”, Nikita recollects.

TRING, a pilot project by Cycling Cities, was launched in 2016 at Nikita’s own office. In a bid to get professionals interested in cycling, the initiative rented them cycles with helmets, guidance and initial support rides. An acronym for ‘Try Cycling’, Nikita plans on collaborating with more corporate organisations in the city to evolve the cycling culture at an institutional level.

Another of her initiatives, Baroda by Cycle, a series of guided tours around the city curated by heritage experts was launched on April 18 this year, commemorating World Heritage Day. “More than 30 people turned up for cycling tour around the historical Kila-e- Daulatabad. We plan on adding up more tour circuits soon”, she said.

Her efforts have led to Nikita being appointed the Bicycle Mayor of Baroda this year, making her the first Indian to hold such a title.

The Bicycle Mayor programme is part of a global network by CycleSpace, an initiative that aims to accelerate the trend of cycling in cities. But this is not the only platform that has applauded Nikita’s initiatives.

Last year, Cycling Cities was recognised as a mobility startup by World Resource Institute and was also selected by TiE Global for six months of mentoring following a three-day conference at Jaipur. Nikita was also invited to IIM Udaipur for a month-long entrepreneurship programme for women.