A civic activist, Sathya was selected from among six finalists as the city’s first Bicycle Mayor on Monday.

Pedalling his way to change Sathya Sankaran becomes Bengalurus first bicycle mayor
news Human Interest Tuesday, May 22, 2018 - 19:16

“One of my first initiatives will be to start an education programme in schools. The programme will not be about learning to cycle but more about the science of cycling,” says Sathya Sankaran, a city-based civic activist, who was chosen as Bengaluru’s first Bicycle Mayor.

As the Bicycle Mayor, Sathya will now serve a two-year tenure, working with a global network of Bicycle Mayors. Bengaluru is the third city in India to have its own Bicycle Mayor, with counterparts in Baroda and Guwahati from earlier years.

Sathya’s selection from among six finalists was announced on May 21 at an event organised by ESAF and BYCS with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Promoting cycling for sustainable mobility in the city is one of the primary jobs the mayor is tasked with. The 50 by 30 vision, which aims to have 50% of all city trips on bicycles by 2030, is one major challenge that Sathya has to work towards as part of establishing a sustainable mode of transport in the city.

Additionally, getting Bengalureans to switch from cars to cycles for short distances and for last mile connectivity will be another challenge in Sathya’s stint as mayor.

Speaking to TNM, the new Bicycle Mayor shared his plans to bring in a clean and green Bengaluru.

Explaining about the education programme in schools, he says, “The course will be integrated into the school curriculum and students will learn the mechanics of a cycle as well as the biological, environmental and civic benefits of cycling. We expect to get the course material ready in the next 3 months. We have 6 to 8 schools are in mind, but are still figuring how to adjust it with their regular timetables.”

Sathya understands that getting people to give up commuting by car and take up cycling instead is a huge task, especially in a traffic-choked city like Bengaluru. But there are reasons for this reluctance, he says. 

“The major mental barrier that concerns people regarding cycling is safety. It is a real fear. That cars may knock them down while cycling. My attempts will be to sensitise car drivers on the road and get them to respect cyclists and pedestrians as well. Car users need to develop a sense of empathy towards others. This will take time but will definitely pick up,” he says.

Citing a positive story about the city welcoming cycling, Sathya says that the ‘cycle to school’ programme which encouraged students to cycle to their school every day became a huge hit in Sanjay Nagar.

“Cycle usage in a school increased up to 900% and to 2700% in another school in the area,” he says.

Another reason deterring Bengalureans from cycling is the lack of infrastructure for cyclists in the city. But with several new government and private schemes, this is sure to change, Sathya believes.

“The government has initiated policies like the NMT policy, cycling master plan and Modal Share Programme. In my position, I will be actively pushing to implement these effectively. Regarding infrastructure for cycle parking, we are finalising a new public bicycle sharing programme. With this, people can rent cycles for 30 minutes or longer. More than 1,000 cycles will be made available and we will encourage people to cycle to work, and also ask offices and hotels to create parking space for cycles,” he says.

In his position as mayor, Sathya plans to approach corporates take up these initiatives as part of their CSR activities. However, the initiatives will not be limited to Bengaluru city alone. The end goal would be to connect cycle networks in other smaller cities and towns in the state to Bengaluru and create a huge web.

“Traffic congestion is far more a compelling case in Bengaluru than in other cities, but we will get to connect with the people working in other cities like Mysuru, Hubli, Dharwad. We will be primarily working through the people in these communities and try to connect as many places,” he says.

Despite these efforts, Sathya knows that not much can be done without the help of the public as change starts from there. The initiative will look to integrate civic bodies in the future.

“Traffic congestion is caused by the general public. So we need to get back to them and work with them primarily to make a change.”

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