Founder of Cycling Cities, Nikita Lalwani began cycling to work three years ago and now motivates others to adopt bicycles as means of transport.
It’s a recurring thought that often strikes people waiting in endless traffic jams: wouldn’t it be so much simpler to use bicycles as a mode of commute?
Not only is the humble bicycle a pollution-free mode of transport, it is the perfect way to keep a check on your health as well.
With more cars on the road, competing with construction work for space, riding a bicycle to your workplace often seems like a very convenient option.
Nikita Lalwani, an instrumentation engineer by profession, decided to start cycling to work three years back, when a flyover construction ended up doubling her commute time for a mere distance of four kilometres.
“A month into the construction period and there was no commute that could take me to work without being so much time consuming and that too for such a short distance. I’d tried auto rickshaws, Scooty and even a car. As the last straw, I’d decided to borrow a friend’s cycle,” Nikita says.
Things have never been the same since.
Inspiring more than a dozen of her colleagues that included many senior employees, to opt for cycling as a means of transport, Nikita found her inspiration during a visit to Germany in 2014 where she observed that a major chunk of the population used cycles for transportation late in 2014.
She followed it with conducting surveys to understand cycling trends and the varying psychological attitudes that might deter people from being not too confident to take up cycling.
The Cycling Cities initiative was launched in 2015 with the vision of motivating at least one-third of the city’s population to use cycles as the main mode of transport by 2030. Supported by more than 20 interns from cities across India, the project and much of its operations have been entirely funded by the Nikita.
“Forming a pan-India team, we organised our first event at the opening of Decathlon Baroda followed by another event in Rohini, Delhi. These events included games like pedal power, smart commute and cycling myth busters”, Nikita recollects.
TRING, a pilot project by Cycling Cities, was launched in 2016 at Nikita’s own office. In a bid to get professionals interested in cycling, the initiative rented them cycles with helmets, guidance and initial support rides. An acronym for ‘Try Cycling’, Nikita plans on collaborating with more corporate organisations in the city to evolve the cycling culture at an institutional level.
Another of her initiatives, Baroda by Cycle, a series of guided tours around the city curated by heritage experts was launched on April 18 this year, commemorating World Heritage Day. “More than 30 people turned up for cycling tour around the historical Kila-e- Daulatabad. We plan on adding up more tour circuits soon”, she said.
Her efforts have led to Nikita being appointed the Bicycle Mayor of Baroda this year, making her the first Indian to hold such a title.
The Bicycle Mayor programme is part of a global network by CycleSpace, an initiative that aims to accelerate the trend of cycling in cities. But this is not the only platform that has applauded her Nikita’s initiatives.
Last year, Cycling Cities was recognised as a mobility startup by World Resource Institute and was also selected by TiE Global for six months of mentoring following a three-day conference at Jaipur. Nikita was also invited to IIM Udaipur for a month-long entrepreneurship programme for women.
Taking up the role of the first Bicycle Mayor for an Indian city, Nikita has been invited to the Bicycle Mayor Summit slated to be held in Amsterdam in June, followed by a global cycling conference, Velo-City 2017. In collaboration with the crowdfunding website Milaap, she is raising essential funds that will enable her to go to the Netherlands and cover her accommodation, travel and other expenses during the conference.
Not only will this trip provide Nikita an opportunity to gather new skills, she will also be able to learn more about cycling infrastructure in Europe and share her experiences from India.
Here’s to pedalling, for better health and greener cities!
You can contribute to Nikita’s campaign on Milaap here.