Riding a Green Wave
By Subhojit Panda
The climax in ‘Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikander’ (1992) where Aamir Khan edges past Deepak Tijori in a nail-biting marathon cycle race is one of the most pulsating scenes in the Bollywood history. Though many such cycling sequences have been recreated in Indian films, the culture of cycling in our country has never really flourished unlike the West. Among the many cycling clubs that have aggressively promoted cycling as a green exercise and viable mode of transport, the citybased Bhubaneswar Cycling and Adventure Club (better known as BCAC) has created a niche for itself nationally and internationally.
Founded in 2013 by a group of cycle enthusiasts, the BCAC is the ultimate destination for cyclists. Thanks to the efforts of the BCAC, the Bhubaneswar cycling scene has witnessed a steady increase in the number of cyclists on the streets. The club which has been organising cycling and adventure sports events for the last five years, was the brainchild of few senior bureaucrats who believed, cycling was the best possible way to ease traffic congestion, reduce pollution and stay fit.
“The BCAC members meet every Sunday behind Bhubaneswar Club at 6am. The meeting not just allows interaction between the members, but is also the starting point to undertake short and long cycling rides. On an average, a distance of about 60 to 70 km per day is covered on Sundays. This helps the cycle enthusiasts to take up long distance rides”, says Ajay Nanda, an enthusiastic member of the group.
Having already undertaken rides within the state, the BCAC believes cycling also provides an opportunity to discover the state’s heritage. The cyclists have explored several historical places of importance like ‘Lalitgiri’, ‘Ratnagiri’, ‘Jayadev Pitha’, ‘Atri’, ‘Debi Dwaara’, etc. Though there are several rides scheduled in a calendar year, the BCAC members make it a point to go on an international cycling expedition every year. A distance of 1302 kms was covered from Bhubaneswar to Bhutan on cycles, in 2015. Impressed with their efforts, a research team from Bhutan came to the state to study Odisha’s connection with Buddhism.
The year 2016 was really memorable for the BCAC as they took cycling to a different level. In a first of its kind initiative from Odisha, a group of seven cyclists led by senior IPS officer Sanjeeb Panda went on a 2002 km, 15-day international cycling expedition, from Vietnam to Cambodia. The purpose was to promote the culture of cycling in Odisha and enhancing the friendly ties with these countries.The cycling route from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh was one of the best cycling routes in the world and was truly moral boosting. Apart from interacting with the locals, we discovered that the food habits in Cambodia are very similar to ours,” says Nanda.
In order to make riding fun, exciting and a pleasurable experience, the club came up with a concept of ‘Cycling under the Stars’. “It was an effort to enjoy the tranquillity of night life while riding. The first edition of the event in 2016, saw 39 riders covering the Bhubaneswar-Puri- Konark-Bhubaneswar route, a distance of 161 kms”, he noted. The overwhelming response prompted the second edition which saw a turnout of 61 cyclists at the event. The participation of cyclists from neighbouring states was a good indication of the buzz that the event had created.
The club has riding enthusiasts in the age bracket of 7 to 70 years! Women have also taken to cycling and are also joining in for long distance rides. Namrata Giri Patra, one of the lady cyclists of the BCAC team, says, “BCAC is a rocking place to be in. There are very few lady riders in the group but I share a great rapport with all the members. It is always a pleasurable experience riding with the senior and experienced cyclists in the team. I’d like to see more ladies coming in to explore the exciting world of cycling. Gender should never be attached with cycling as it is for everyone.”
The BCAC activities are not restricted to cycling only. The club had undertaken a coastal trekking expedition covering a distance of 33km from Puri till the Chilika sea mouth. Apart from that, deep sea swimming and hill trekking are some of the other adventure activities undertaken by the club. That’s not it. BCAC also has philanthropic interests, wherein members have gifted cycles to Sai Anand Ashram in Patia, distributed road safety bookmarks to the commuters, conducted blood donation camps and seminars in different education institutions on cycling among others. “Our mission is to make Bhubaneswar a bicycle-friendly city, promote fitness and recreation through cycling and encourage people to use bicycles. Cycling tracks should be constructed alongside the wide streets of Bhubaneswar to boost the cycling culture.”
“The passion to help people adopt the healthy habit of cycling has bonded us strongly. We get ultimate joy and pleasure doing anything green,” says Nanda. Another international cycle expedition is on the cards for the BCAC members. Nanda says, “We’ll cycle from Cuttack to Kathmandu later this year. We’ve also given a proposal to start cycle tracks inside the Botanical Garden for the tourists. Organizing a National Cycling Championship is our long term goal.The BCAC aspires to add more people to the group and make cycling a mass movement.” Let’s ride this green wave!