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 Prakash Gopinath, the Bicycle Mayor of Trivandrum. He’s on a quest to make the hilly city of Trivandrum a more cycle-friendly space for all!
Prakash was senior Section Engineer in Southern Railways. He was associated with environmental organisations and environmental movements since his days in school.
In 2009 he held a cycling rally from Kaseragode to Trivandrum to raise funds for a children’s home Chilla in Trivandrum. Through the ride he was able to collect INR 1.75 lakhs, back then there were no cycling clubs in Kerala.
So Prakash and his friends decided to form a cycling fraternity so that all those who supported the ride will have a common platform. And he went on to make collectives in Trivandrum and Trissur.
This culminated in the creation of the Indus Cycling Embassy on the 12th of December, 2012. The purpose of the club was to bring more people to use bicycles as a sustainable and green mode of commuting.
He came across the Bicycle Mayor Program through a friend’s Facebook post, and he liked the idea of achieving 50% of a city’s transport through bicycle by the year 2030 and decided that he was going to support this cause as he felt it was achievable.
PRAKASH’S CONTRIBUTION TO CHENNAI’S CYCLING COMMUNITY
Trivandrum is a city of 7 hills, it is notorious for its ups and downs every other kilometre. This is one of the main obstacles facing Trivandrum in its quest to promote cycling. The second one is the narrow roads where there is less chance of expansion, limiting the option of building better cycling infrastructure.
However, infrastructure aside, the most difficult issue is the attitude of people towards cycling and cyclists. As Trivandrum is a city are predominantly office goers who prefer to go to travel without. Parents of School children are also scared to send their children via bicycle.
Since becoming Bicycle Mayor, Prakash with the help of the Indus Cycling Embassy has successfully driven various campaigns around cycling. Here are a few of Prakash’s most impressive ones!
INDUS CYCLING EMBASSY ‘GIFT A CYCLE’ CAMPAIGN
The club collects Rs 50 / month from our members and friends, using that money to gift a bicycle every month to a girl student in schools who cannot afford to have one. So far they have gifted 28 cycles to girl students in Trivandrum.
FREEDOM NIGHT RIDES
The goal of this ride is to occupy the streets by women cyclists on Saturday night from 9pm to 11:30pm in an attempt to create awareness about cycling and women’s safety.
With the support of Thiruvananthapuram Municipal Corporation, Prakash and the Club have started forming bicycle clubs in schools. These clubs are called Bicycle Brigades to build a cycling culture through youngsters and also inspire elders to follow in the steps of the students.
They also collect old unusable bicycles and refurbish them for underprivileged children who can benefit from their use.
During the lockdown, the main problem faced by bicyclists was a lack of Bicycle Repair shops. So Prakash helped start the program ‘Cycle Tube’. Where individuals only have to fill out a Google Form with the issue they are facing and their phone number. After which a mechanic will go to their house and repair the cycle. If the repair is major, it will be taken to the repair shop at an additional cost of Rs 200 and bring back to their house serviced.
BOOK BY BICYCLE
During the lockdown period due to COVID-19, many people, especially older people and children, were forced to stay at home. So Prakash and Indus Cycling Embassy started a campaign called ‘Book By Bicycle’ wherein people can order books from popular book stores and have the book delivered to their home via bicycle!
Those who order books through this method receive a 10% discount, which was a boon to bibliophiles of Trivandrum.
JUNIOR BICYCLE MAYOR & BICYCLE CAPTIAN
The Club has already elected its 4th Junior Bicycle Mayor of the world on June 3rd World Bicycle Day 2020. The aim is again to bring more and more people into cycling, especially students.
THE ROAD AHEAD
Going forward, Prakash has set his sights on completing
- Bicycle Brigades in schools – I feel if I can bring more students into cycling it can inspire elders and will be an eye-opener for the authorities. (Prime importance)
- Junior Bicycle Mayor 2021 selection
- Instituting of Ward Level Bicycle Councillors in all 124 Wards of Trivandrum, with an aim of promoting cycling within each Ward.
- Advocate for Cycles 4 Change Challenge & cycling stations in the city of Trivandrum
We wish Prakash the very best at his stint as the Bicycle Mayor of Trivandrum. We hope to see Trivandrum as an up and coming cycling city to rival the likes of bigger cities like Bangalore and Chennai!
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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