The Bicycle Mayor program is part of a global initiative by Amsterdam based NGO, BYCS to promote bicycle-friendly policy initiatives in the hopes of achieving 50% of a city’s transport through bicycle by the year 2030.
Know more about the Bicycle Mayor Program in India
Bicycle Mayors are the human face and voice of cycling advocacy in a city and the global program connects these change-makers across a global network to create greater visibility and facilitate the sharing of knowledge, ideas, challenges, and solutions to create a truly radical shift.
Say Hello to Sathya Sankaran, the Bicycle Mayor for Bangalore. Bangalore has rapidly become the hub for cycling activity over the last decade with a huge cycling community that has diverse interests – recreational, racing, daily commuters, randonneurs, bike packing, touring, and more. Being the bicycle mayor in a city like Bangalore is bound to be exciting!
Sathya has been working in the space of civic activism and mobility interventions for little over a decade now. He is also an avid commuter cyclist and was seen as a natural leader to champion the needs of Bangalore’s cycling community. He has been working closely with the local government, in particular with the Directorate of Urban Land Transport and the Bangalore Police to push for reform around urban planning, non-motorized transport, and public transport.
Sathya’s Contribution to Bangalore’s Cycling Community
Bangalore is seen as one of the few cities in India which is conducive for cycling, as it features a mix of good weather and a cosmopolitan attitude which as allowed cycling to grow into a mainstream form of transport in the city.
However, like all cities in India, inadequate infrastructure has been a limiting factor to cycling’s growth. As many aspiring cyclists are too concerned about the dangers of cycling on India’s chaotic roads.
Sathya has been at the forefront in the fight for more road space and has successfully paved the way for over 120km of Bicycle Tracks in the city, with the latest initiatives including a new lane on the infamous Outer Ring Road (ORR), which is home to most of Bangalore’s I.T. Sector. Other initiatives are being tested are bicycle racks on public buses which will allow cyclists to commute greater distances with the help of public transport.
These infrastructure gains are needed, but are not the only solution according to Sathya, who notes than out of 12,000km of roadways in the city, only 2000km of those roads are wide enough (15m or wider) to accommodate dedicated bike racks.
Even if all 2000km we’re covered, that would translate to less than 20% of Bangalore’s roads being cycle-friendly. What is to be done about the rest? Sathya believes that the only solution is a change in the mindset of motorists.
Sathya, therefore, believes that infrastructure is just half the answer and that the only way to make Bangalore a cycle-friendly city is by seeing an attitudinal change among road users. Motorists need to respect the cyclists on the road and need to cultivate a mindset of sharing our streets with other forms of non-motorable forms of transport.
Common arguments made by motorists are that they have paid road taxes and therefore are entitled to the road as compared to the cyclist who pays nothing.
To that Sathya says that road users should see Road-Tax as a penalty for using cars which harm the planet, and argues that the conversation should not revolve around why cyclists need more road space, but rather why cars have the space they do when they contribute nothing but pollution and congestion.
The Road Ahead
Sathya’s ultimate goal is to invert the mobility pyramid and to achieve a critical mass of people cycling and walking, as only when there are enough people cycling, will politicians take their needs seriously.
Sathya is optimistic going forward, as, in the time of COVID-19, the lockdown has seen cycle sales soar through the roof across the country, with stores such as our own (BUMSONTHESADDLE) facing a severe lack of inventory.
Lockdown has forced people to reconsider the merits of cycling and has been the push that many needed to make the transition. It has allowed people from different walks of life to take up cycling as a means of transport and exercise, with many civil servants and politicians also taking to the streets on bicycles.
In terms of official initiatives, the Government is also realising the value of cycling and has since launched schemes such as the ‘India Cycles 4 Change’ program. Which is a pro-cycling initiative for Smart Cities by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA). This has gotten more local authorities to take more of an interest in furthering cycle-friendly activities.
But ultimately he believes, the big shift is only possible through educational initiatives at the school level, as this will inspire the next generation to look at the bicycle as a fun and desirable mode of transportation.
Sathya actively engages with different schools and has conducted sessions where principle subjects such as Physics, Biology and Maths are taught through the use of a bicycle. As this offers a visual aid for students to understand complicated concepts and highlights the merits of cycling.
We wish Sathya the very best at his stint as the Bicycle Mayor of Bangalore. Like most sprawling and crowded cities, Bangalore can definitely benefit a lot from its citizens taking to cycling as a means of transport, fitness, and sport.
To Watch More About Sathya’s Journey
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WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CYCLING:
I love the freedom which comes with riding a bike. On my Hardtail MTB , nothing is an obstacle, I seamlessly flow down trails and through traffic like water in a river. And that flow gives me immense satisfaction and the continued drive to get back on my bike the next day.
DISCIPLINE: Mountain Biking & Commuting
CURRENT BIKE: Marin Bolinas Ridge Disc
DREAM BIKE: Cannondale TOPSTONE Carbon Lefty 3