Monday 18 January 2010

Cycling-hostile India

The perception that cycling is a slow way of commuting is "bogus" and the idea that increased car ownership is a sign of progress is "silly," says Dr. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, a winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and a committed, car-free cyclist. Originally from India, Dr. Venki, as he is known, recently gave an outspoken interview about his cycling habit to an organization that works to promote bike-riding in Bangalore.

In India, as in many countries, "you are respected only if you own a car; cycling is perceived [as being] only for poor and neglected communities," said Murali HR from the Ride-A-Cycle Foundation, who interviewed Dr. Venki in Bangalore in early January. He said many of his friends were "shocked" to learn that the Nobel laureate's only vehicle has just two wheels.

The professor reminisced about his childhood in Baroda, India, where "you could bicycle... from anywhere to anywhere." Today, he said,
"there is not a single bicycle. Everybody has a motorcycle -- that is the minimum. This excess traffic is destroying Indian cities."