Bangalore By Bicycle
Thursday evenings are the best. It marks the onset of an easy Friday (for most) and teasingly hints at a weekend in the offing. You’re done with hardest part of the week. And all that’s left for you to do is unwind. Bit by bit. Minute by minute. Drink by drink. Right? Perhaps. But not quite. Here’s an interesting alternative. South Fire Cycle Nights.
Started a little over 13 weeks ago by 22-year-old Aditya Mendonca, South Fire Cycle Nights adds a different twist to your Thursday: a cycling experience where you pedal through the city and take in its sights at night. Speaking to Explocity, Mendonca talks about how he plans to ‘reclaim the city’ – bicycle and all.
What is South Fire Cycle Nights all about?
South Fire Cycle Nights is all about have fun riding a cycle at night, and enjoying the breeze across your face. It is representative of the ‘South Fire’ lifestyle, which is all about being social and having fun.
While on a holiday abroad, I rode with a group across the city, by cycle. This experience inspired me to save up, and buy an imported cycle. I called up a couple of friends who regularly cycle, and soon, South Fire Cycle Nights came to life – on February 21, with just nine people. We’ve since grown, and today, each ride has a minimum turnout of at least 13 cyclists.
Is Bangalore a cycle-friendly city?
Yes. Bangalore is getting more cycle friendly. It actually depends on the cyclist and his reactions on the road. We've been cycling for the past 13 weeks now, and we've been safe so far.
How does cycling help you "reclaim the city”?
Our message “Reclaim The City” is actually a call for cyclists to claim a small portion of the road too. Back in the ‘80s, everyone travelled on cycles because cars and bikes were expensive. Now, in 2013, it is no longer the case. People are slowly returning to the bicycle, and prefer it to other modes of transport. This may be due to various reasons: traffic, lack of parking etc.
What is the benefit of riding in a group?
The benefits of riding in a group are immense. You are safer. It is more fun and it is an experience like none other.
Why choose late nights on a Thursday?
We chose Thursday night, because, with the week coming to a close, we wanted to give people a chance to do something new. Our ride is more to relax, unwind and meet new people. Basically, a platform to meet like-minded people over a weekday. Also, safety is our top priority, and under no circumstance, can we afford to risk the cyclists’ safety. A few of us commute everyday by cycle and have good knowledge of the city’s roads. We try and chart out a fun new route every Thursday.
Won’t people be more willing to do this on a weekend? And why no cycling tours in the daytime?
Yes there are a lot of people who cycle on the weekend, but we at South Fire like Thursdays more. A majority of the core team that helps me in organising each ride have day jobs, so we don't ride during the day. There are cycling trips organised during the day, but people have to work to earn their bread and butter, correct?
Is Cycle Nights meant for someone with a certain level of experience in long-distance cycling or can anyone interested join? Do you have to pay to be a part of it?
South Fire Cycle Nights is for everyone. Obviously, an individual who rides with us needs to know how to ride a cycle. Our rides are a social experience. The ride is about discovering the city and experiencing things that you may not have noticed in the city. Besides, Bangalore has wonderful weather throughout the year, and riding a cycle at night is quite an experience. The Thursday rides are free. All one needs is a cycle, helmet, front and rear lights, and a water bottle.
Are you planning to take this to other cities as well?
Yes, we are. Currently, we are in talks with like-minded people in different cities. We are also in the process of discovering the impact our rides have had so far, and the impression cycling has made in the lives of those who have been with us over the past 10 rides.
What are the advantages of cycling around a city versus other modes of transport?
The best part about commuting via cycle is that it does not cost a rupee in running cost. There’s the fitness aspect as well. And, in my personal opinion, I think I have more fun cycling towards my destination. How often do people say, “I had a fun drive to work?”
Do Bangaloreans happily forgo their beer and choose to cycle around the city at night?
I didn't expect people to give up their beer, but I did know that people wanted to do something different at least once a week. I feel it can make your week a lot more interesting. People don't drink beer all the time, so that one day people go cycling can make a small change in their individual lives. Besides, how often do you get to enjoy this city's weather the way we do when most of us spend all our time in an office and afterwards, indoors at a pub.