Cycling has proven to be the most efficient and sustainable mode of transport for short-distance urban mobility but its potential is either not accepted, or if accepted, is not prioritised in our cities. The COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown got a lot of people into cycling as well as talking about it. Although the popular narratives and beliefs are that only people from the lower economic strata of the society cycles to work, the reality, however, is much different.
A report by OECD states, “Gender is one of the key socio-demographic variables that can influence travel behaviour but is often the least understood. Understanding travel behaviour by gender will help better design transport policies that are efficient and equitable.”
Guwahati Active Mobility Forum (GAMOF) has made an effort to bring into focus stories of women and girls from different parts of the city that use cycles primarily to travel for their work or education. In this first part of the series, we bring to you the women members of GAMOF itself.
Ajanta Boro is an entrepreneur closely working in the field of cycling for a few years. As a child, she remembers being very proud the day she achieved her balance on two wheels. Her grandfather then gifted her one citing it as a reward for her good results in her school exams. She has cycled around her campus during her engineering days as well. Hence, once she got placed, she gifted herself a geared bicycle to explore the places and yes of course to keep herself fit. That was in Kolkata and once she got back to Guwahati, she did continue doing the same. For her, it is fun cycling in the evening to cafes to have a cup of coffee and to catch up with friends. But there have of course been instances where she and her friends were not offered a safe space for parking their cycles and asked to leave the place when they demanded. She looks forward to the days where designated bicycle parking areas will be visible on the main roads, the cafes/restaurants/hotels, shopping centres and offices. With the increase in the numbers of cyclists, she believes this change will gradually be here.
Ajanta is a part of Guwahati Active Mobility as an adviser and mentor for the Bicycle Councilors of Guwahati.
Krishnajeena Sharma is a teacher. From her childhood days, she always loved cycling. She earned her first cycle as a gift by passing out a scholarship examination at the primary level and from then cycling became her passion. But as she grew up she had to stop due to various reasons.
She restarted this beautiful habit again after a long gap of about 20 years. This time she started just for physical exercise. And now she finds herself again in love with this habit. She has been riding now for about 3 years. She finds it more convenient to go around the city by riding a bicycle rather than by a car, bus or any other cab. Moreover, she feels great to realise that she is moving out without harming the environment. She rides whenever she needs to visit any of her friends, or need to buy something few small items from the market. She also rides when she is in a mood to enjoy the beauty of her city alone. She would have cycled to work too if it had been in the same city as she resides.
She would like to thank one of her best friends Ms Jupitora Basumatary and her husband Mr Manoj Kumar Goswami who inspired her to develop this habit. Krishnajeena is the Bicycle Councilor of ward no 30 in Guwahati and also part of Guwahati Active Mobility Forum as a founder member.
Shravani Sharma is an Urban and Transport Planner and advocates for clean mobility solutions for cities globally. Her professional experience is based on a high-level policy advisory and engagement with research focusing on market trends and behavioural studies.
She is currently the Bicycle Councilor of ward no 21 of Guwahati and works towards achieving the goal of making Guwahati the most walkable and cycle-friendly city by 2030, by promoting active mobility measures. Seeing her city grow, she feels that this is the right time to invest dialogue in sustainable modes of transport such as walking and cycling to reduce the pressure on the city as a result of excessive migration and a rise in the number of vehicular registrations.
She believes that roads belong to all classes of the society and to adopt universal accessibility and inclusivity, Guwahati can become a model example to be replicated in most of the northeastern cities. Her studies also include understanding the impacts of tactical urbanism on gender and transport and how providing soft infrastructure amendments can change the mindset of millennial women to boast about ownership of a cycle, not only promoting a healthy lifestyle but also contributing to deduction in emissions. Shravani is also a founder member Guwahati Active Mobility Forum.
Urmi Buragohain is an urbanist, a water champion and nowadays, an accidental serial entrepreneur. After having worked over 20 years spanning Australia, South Asia and the Middle East with significant experience in public, private and not-for-profit sectors, Urmi chose to move back to India three years back to pursue her vision of giving back and making a difference in her region of origin by putting to use her professional background as a built environment expert and her passion for creating dignified and healthy places.
Urmi’s earliest memories relating to cycling was when as a 10-year-old, she threw a tantrum to own a bicycle in response to which her dad got her an adult-sized Hero cycle which was so big that her feet didn’t touch the ground. When she moved to Australia in 2002 as a young professional, her eyes opened to a whole new world where people from affluent backgrounds rode fancy bikes, whether to work or play, and less affluent sections of society were stuck with cars. Although her cycling activity over the years has been limited to recreational cycling, she continues to advocate for the inclusion of active mobility opportunities in all developmental policies. Urmi is a part of Guwahati Active Mobility as an Advisor and offers her expertise in all their advocacy work.