Barely a month after women in Kerala walked the streets at night to claim their right to public spaces, they are now going to ride bicycles at night. Indus Cycling Embassy, a group that promotes cycling among young people, is conducting a ‘freedom night ride’ in Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday night, as an extension of the ‘Night Walk for Women’ conducted by the state government last month.
“Like they got women to walk on the streets in the night, we are doing this to encourage women to ride bicycles on the road and claim the public space,” says Prakash P Gopinath, founder of Indus Cycling Embassy and Bicycle Mayor of Thiruvananthapuram.
People of all genders are welcome to join the ride. They just need to bring their bicycles with them. The ride will begin from the Manaveeyam Veedi near Vellayambalam at 9 pm on January 25. The group will ride to the Shanghumugham beach, spent some time there, and come back by 11 pm. They chose Shanghumugham after the recent moral policing attack on a young woman and her friends at the beach. Sreelakshmi Arackal, a B.Ed. student, and her two friends who had gone to the beach in the night were approached by men asking rude questions and then pushing and manhandling them. The police booked the culprits the next day, but not before the young woman had to face some hostile questions at the station.
“That is one reason we chose to go to the beach. And it is not going to be a one-time ride. Every Saturday, we will conduct the same bicycle ride from Manaveeyam to Shanghumugham after 9 pm,” Prakash adds.
After forming the cycling group in 2012, Prakash was involved in encouraging women to take to cycling, after noticing that there were very few joining the group rides. Prakash began teaching girls and women to ride, without age restrictions – his oldest students are in their 60s. Indus also began pooling money to gift a bicycle every month to a child – mostly a girl – who comes from a less privileged background.