SIVASISH THAKUR GUWAHATI, April 21 - Arshel Akhter, an avid cyclist based in the city, has been appointed the ‘Bicycle Mayor’ of Guwahati by BYCS (pronounced as ‘bikes’), an NGO based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, the cycling capital of the world. Akhter has been promoting the habit of cycling among the citizens of Guwahati and elsewhere in the State.
Akhter is the second person from India who has been appointed a Bicycle Mayor. The other Bicycle Mayor is Nikita Lalwani of Vadodra.
BYCS (formerly known as Cycle Space) envisages a world where 50 per cent of all city trips are by bicycle by 2030. BYCS calls this global vision ‘50by30’.
“BYCS believes that it will lead to fundamentally healthier, happier and more prosperous and sustainable cities. Cycling is more than transportation. It is transformation. BYCS is making the shift from car-centric to human centric cities possible through acting as a catalyst for breakthrough solutions around cycling. BYCS creates and accelerates ideas and kick-starts collaborations. BYCS is pursuing its bold 50by30 goal by launching innovative programmes that can scale and engage people globally,” a BYCS statement said.
To replicate the same ideas across the globe, BYCS through recommendations from various cyclists based in the city has appointed Akhter as the Bicycle Mayor of Guwahati, a position which is honorary in nature and will be for a period of two years.
“I have been cycling for the last three years. I am also involved with multiple organisations which promote and support cycling as a medium of fitness and commuting within the city. I believe that to increase the sustainability of any city, citizens should take up non-fossil fuel medium of transport to minimise the level of air pollution, thereby improving the overall health and hygiene of the forthcoming generation,” Akhter told The Assam Tribune.
Akhter along with his fellow cyclists had recently submitted a memorandum to the Assam government for creating cycling lanes across the city.
“I have been trying to popularise cycling by arranging cycle rallies and communicating with the people about the advantages of cycling and how to create a collaborative ecosystem. I restarted cycling to explore the nearby areas of the city and met a lot of people in the process. It has made me more active in the cycling scene. I became a part of a cycling group called Guwahati Cycling Community (GCC) which is basically an umbrella organisation under which its members have formed their own small riding groups based on their age group or locality,” he said.
GCC keeps organising community cycling rides in the city.
Another project called ‘Pedal for a Change’ aims at promoting all kinds of cyclists and cycling activities. “We have a Facebook group where lots of things related to cycling are posted. There are two special series of posts that I put up every week. I also organise short interactive sessions for school and college students, telling them mainly about the benefits of cycling,” he added.
Akhter has also formed a group named ‘Wheelion’ which comprises members drawn from different organisations and business establishments of the city. “Its sole function is to organise long and short distance cycling competitions and promote cycling as a sport. The first event was an 85-km ‘Cyclosportive’ held on December 3, 2017 and the next event was a 100-mile race in the lines of BRMs held on March 11, 2018,” he said.
He is also part of a small riders group called ‘Guwahati Cycle Tour (GCT)’ which has members from various age groups and diverse professions like bureaucrats, doctors, advocates, businessmen, corporate employees, etc.