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A lot of us have ridden a bicycle at least once in our lives. A good bunch of us had our own bicycles in our childhood. A bicycle is both accessible and affordable to multiple sections of society. For some, riding a bicycle is a way to express freedom, and experience fun. For others, bicycles are the means to earn their daily bread and butter. Nonetheless, if more people start cycling, we can build cleaner and healthier cities soon. This June 3rd, the world is celebrating its 4th Bicycle Day anniversary.
Why do we have a "World Bicycle Day"?
Time to find some answers!
The idea of World Cycling Day started with an academic project taken up by Polish-American Sociologist, Dr Leszek J. Sibilski. The project was, "Exploring the role of bicycles in development". Sibilski initially penned down his thoughts in a blog post titled, "Cycling is Everyone's Business" in 2015. Also a former member of the Polish national cycling team, Sibilski has always been a strong proponent of cycling. In 2016, Sibilski followed up with another blog post titled, "Why is there no World Day for the Bicycle?”, which created a ripple effect of sorts.
The idea turned into a grassroots movement that started receiving funding and support from Turkmenistan. At that time, Turkmenistan was already working on sustainable mobility solutions for its citizens. The movement got global recognition and the United Nations Organization (UNO) started supporting it.
On April 12, 2018, the UNO adopted a resolution to celebrate June 3rd as World Bicycle Day, commemorating the 200+ year legacy, importance, and versatility of the bicycle. This resolution was adopted in the 72nd UN General Assembly on April 12, 2018. World leaders were encouraged to organize bicycle rallies and contribute voluntarily to encouraging bicycle usage.
The UNO officially acknowledged the following points as merits of the beloved Bicycle.
All this information about global health is great. But how does cycling help you as an individual? What are the exact benefits of riding this lean machine? Let’s find out!
It should come as no surprise that cycling also strengthens and builds muscle, especially in your lower body (glutes, hamstrings, calves, and quads). This extra musculature can help with additional weight loss and ideal body weight management.
Point to note: Weight loss needs a structured diet along with adequate physical activity. Cycling at a leisurely pace can take time to show results. To get faster results, you need to cycle at a challenging pace/intensity.
Changes in body posture such as humpy back, curved spine, and abnormal gait are common problems with ageing. If not corrected, these can increase the chances of trips, falls, and injuries. Cycling also improves core strength, which becomes extremely important as you age to stay pain-free.
Physical exercise releases endorphins, and dopamine. These are hormones that can block pain and gives you the sensation of pleasure and happiness. Cycling also increases the oxygen supply to your brain which gives you a natural high (often called biker’s high or runner’s high).
Other benefits of cycling include better sleep quality, improved memory retention, mood enhancement, and focus. All of which can help you age gracefully.
Cohort studies conducted over 15 years indicated that mortality rates due to lifestyle diseases (Diabetes, heart stroke, high Blood Pressure etc.) are reduced by 24% for people who took up cycling. The percentage went down by 35% for people who continued cycling for 5+ years. Therefore, people who take up cycling also have a much lesser chance of falling prey to lifestyle diseases.
Even a quick 10-minute session on a bicycle can show a drastic difference when you are experiencing stress, lethargy, or fatigue.
Fun Fact: Cycling has a lesser carbon footprint (on a per-kilometre basis) compared to both walking and taking public transport.
While cycling comes with a lot of benefits, a lot needs to happen for Indian roads to become safe for cyclists. Cities like Bengaluru, Chennai, Nagpur, Vadodara, and Bhopal are developing initiatives like dedicated bicycle lanes, and bike-sharing services. However, the status quo of this infrastructure is far from ideal. There is a general disregard for cyclists and pedestrians on Indian streets. Many cities are still figuring out ways to solve this problem.
Currently, bicycles share the same roads as motor vehicle traffic. Bicycles are legally considered a vehicle in most Indian states and have to follow the same traffic rules as motor vehicles. In addition, cyclists experience a higher impact of harsh weather conditions like winds, rains, high temperatures etc. comparatively. Precaution and care are important if you cycle regularly. You can never be too safe, and here are a few tips you can follow depending on the amount of cycling you do.
It is also common for bicyclists to experience harsh and unpredictable weather conditions. Have a rain/wind protection jacket handy and prepare for an alternative means of transport during harsh weather days.
Dwindling natural resources and rapid urbanization are the reality of Indian cities today. Economic development is happening at a breakneck pace and the need for green alternatives is dire. As the UNO recommends time and again, bicycles can be the biggest missing piece in the transportation jigsaw puzzle we are solving. Public-Private partnerships and city planners should consider bicycles as a solution to air quality and traffic congestion problems.
Cycling can be a hobby, a mode of recreation, a medium of commute, and a means of livelihood. Making this versatile vehicle a part of your household can build peace, tolerance, social inclusion, and health in your communities.
Until all this happens, keep cycling.
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