STREET CYCLIST OF MUMBAI.
For a city without any favorable cycling infrastructure to ride in pairs is beyond ones imagination. But I am misunderstood like so many of you since there exists many cyclists who are going double these days. It feels like a mini Amsterdam is thriving in the backstreets of Mumbai. Am saying this with confidence and excitement to have seen two and even three people sharing the same bicycle. What is common for Amsterdammers is special for Mumbai city. Simply because this city is far away from the concept of a dedicated cycle track which would encourage safe and excessive use of bicycles.
Even tough, Mumbai is nowhere comparable to Amsterdam when it comes to cycling culture but I am taking some liberty to draw a parallel. Interestingly, transporting passengers on a bicycle or double seat riding is a tiny bridge that creates a synergy between the two cities. A culture of riding double seat is fairly visible in Amsterdam and prominent in other Dutch cities, however the numbers are small in this part of the world. Riding double aka ‘Dinking’, a visible practice in Amsterdam makes them more sociable. They enjoy being together on the bicycle and this culture is passed on to generations. Cycling double seat helps build relationships – mother with kids, husband with wife’s, siblings, friends in love, just friends, work colleagues and anyone who prefers having a company to beat loneliness during their travel. When cycling with a kid, a Mom is able to narrate stories, sing a song, recite a poem or listen to what her child has to say. Kids also learn when they look around – trees, flowers, pets, birds, shapes, bridges, trams, signages, signals, colors, art installations or other cyclists. Grown up couples may have a different reason for commuting together – maybe going for a movie, heading to a restaurant, visiting a park or traveling for work. Each day, hundreds and thousands of such cyclists either move a passenger with them or find themselves on the rear seat. Cycling double seat has come a long way and has become an integral part of the Dutch society. It is also a symbol of togetherness or perhaps humanness. Divided by age, gender, language, beliefs, caste and nationality but united by a shared bicycle.
According to a survey conducted by Gus published in Rolling Spoke – an urban bicycle lifestyle blog, primarily there are four ways of riding double seat in Amsterdam:
- Wheel Barrow
- Top Tube
Out of these – Bullfrog and Side Saddle are most common seating positions I have noticed in Mumbai. And most of these cyclists are middle aged men and children. And some children even ride in standing position which involves risk, however it makes no difference to them. They are carefree and just enjoy their commutes. The purpose of double riding is clear – to save cost. I remember sitting on a Top-Tube and going to school with a person who had been appointed by my Mother. He and like him few others, ran a business of dropping kids to school and back home for a fee in our neighborhood. In those days, bus services were limited and expensive and we couldn’t afford it, I am talking about early nineties. That was the last time I can recall of riding double. The fourth position Wheel Barrow will remain out of sight from Mumbai streets as bicycles used here don’t have front racks, until someone designs them.
I will attempt some of these seating positions very soon, meanwhile you can enjoy the album.
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai