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    Empowering Bengaluru’s women to navigate the city streets safely

    Published on March 1, 2021

    Bengaluru : To lay the groundwork for making Bengaluru cycle friendly, especially for women, Jhatkaa,  a campaigning organisation committed to building grassroots citizen power across India, and Pedal In Tandem, a bicycle touring company, have supported the #BengaluruMoving campaign by launching the “Cycle School for Women” initiative. The Bengaluru Moving campaign is aimed at seeing an overall reduction in vehicular emissions over the next few years, and is being strategically being rolled out in phases by different organisations on ground and has used a range of creative tactics like art, music, sports, and tech to bring in more voices on board.

    This initiative was launched on February 28th, 2021, as a series of beginner workshops to introduce women residents of Bengaluru to cycling. Over 50 women and girls signed up to attend this first event held last Sunday on Church Street, one of the streets chosen for a pilot programme for pedestrianisation by the Department of Urban Land Transport (DULT) and Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). The subsequent Cycle School workshops will be organised on Sundays at different locations in the city to teach women cycling if they don’t already know how to, and equip them with sufficient practical information surrounding it to continue the practice as a hobby or a means to commute. They aim to address a recurring theme that arose during research conducted around the barriers to entry that women face while considering cycling as a hobby or as a legitimate, independent mode of transport. Some of these barriers comprised infrastructural challenges, lack of knowledge about the right bicycle for different body types, lack of information about appropriate clothing to wear while cycling, amongst other issues related to sustaining the habit of cycling.

    Speaking about the initiative, Poojya Basavaraj and Dheeraj Subramanian, Founders, Pedal In Tandem said that, “There are several deterrents to people taking up cycling – lack of safety due to broken/pothole ridden roads, motorists’ apathy and road rage towards cyclists, lack of separate cycling infrastructure (separate lanes, secure parking lots), lack of knowledge/self-reliance in case of breakdowns and lack of riding skills. For women, these deterrents are compounded by existing safety concerns and social stigmas. Through the ‘Cycle School for Women’ initiative, we hope to break these barriers and enable more women to take up and continue cycling.”

    Dr. Nimisha Agarwal, senior campaigner at Jhatkaa.org, added, “I used to cycle in and around campus when I first moved to Bengaluru. Over the years cars and bikes have taken over all the road space making it difficult for cyclists to co-exist. Good cycling infrastructure is really important, especially for other women like me, who are not able to easily access even small distances without a vehicle.”

    Smitha Jacob, a 42 years old, ex-IT employee who participated in the Cycle School workshop said, “Everyone used to tell me that I won’t be able to cycle but I have done it. I didn’t think I could learn cycling today but I did it today for the first time! I am very proud of that. Cycling means a lot to me and it has been a very old dream of mine to be able to cycle. It was so easy to learn, it all depends on your patience and the person who is going to help you learn! After today, I plan to keep practicing on my son’s or daughter’s cycle.”

    The Cycle School is one of the various initiatives under the Phase II operations of the #BengaluruMoving campaign, which lays emphasis on sustainability, accessibility and women’s safety for developing Non-Motorized Transport (NMT) infrastructure in Bengaluru.