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 Felix John, the Bicycle Mayor of Chennai. Like all Tier 1 Metros in the country, Chennai is preparing itself to become the “Bicycle Capital of the East’. Felix hopes that Chennai can lead the charge across India by making it the most Non-Motor Transport (NMT) friendly city.
Felix, like most Mayors, didn’t start out to become a cycling activist. His journey with cycling started in Bergamo, Italy. Where Felix was offered a used bicycle by a colleague for him to commute to and from work.
After being a commuter for 7 years while in Italy, Felix moved back to India where it took him a little while to get acclimatised to Indian roads. Once he took the leap to start cycling back home in Chennai, it’s the only mode of transport he uses apart from public transport and the occasional car journey with the family.
Felix learned about the Bicycle Mayor program in the news back in 2017 when India had announced its first Bicycle Mayor. It piqued his curiosity about the program, but Felix was still new to the cycling scene in Chennai and didn’t think he had what it took to be mayor at that point.
So he started building his network, becoming a part of the Chennai based cycling community known as We are Chennai Cycling Group (WCCG). His active engagement saw his own interest in cycling reach new heights, eventually resulting in the cycling community nominating him as the best candidate to be the Bicycling Mayor of Chennai, and the rest is history.
FELIX’S CONTRIBUTION TO CHENNAI’S CYCLING COMMUNITY
Chennai, like most cities across the country, is witnessing a shift towards more sustainable and non-motorised forms of transportation. The most significant growth came after the opening of the Pondy Bazaar Pedestrian Plaza in December of 2019, which was a joint effort between the Greater Chennai Corporation and Chennai Smart City Limited.
The Central Government also realises the value of cycling. It has since launched schemes such as the ‘India Cycles 4 Change’ program – 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.
The momentum from this project led the local authorities to launch the “Mega Streets” initiative by the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC). Which proposes to revamp the roads and streets in Chennai for a total area of 426 sq km by developing networks for cycling and walking, increased access to public transport, safe access to public spaces, carriageways, parking, wide footpaths and underground facilities. (Source: Indian Express)
Felix is also working hard to build Chennai’s cycling culture in more ways than just infrastructure. He has been focused on building community engagement and inspiring people to take up cycling as their primary means of transport. His initiatives also extend to the creation of the group ‘Humans of Cycling’ which documents the stories of Chennai’s cyclists, while also creating a platform for people to donate bicycles to those less fortunate. This is truly inspiring as it gives less fortunate people the chance to become more mobile and seek better employment opportunities.
THE ROAD AHEAD
Felix’s goal is to make Chennai the “Bicycling Capital of the East” and to achieve that he firmly believes that both the Government and the Cycling Community need to come together to improve infrastructure and awareness about the benefits of cycling in the city. He sees his role as the bridge between the community and the Government to better communicate and coordinate between the two.
Bridging the gap between non-cyclists is also a priority for Felix. He believes through awareness campaigns and through corporate collaborations, we can build incentives to make people choose cycling over cars as their mode of transport to and from work.
We wish Felix the very best at his stint as the Bicycle Mayor of Chennai. Like most sprawling and crowded cities, Chennai can definitely benefit a lot from its citizens taking to cycling as a means of transport, fitness, and sport.
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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