The American civil rights leader, Susan B Anthony, wrote in 1896: “I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a bike. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammelled womanhood.”
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 second part of the series, we bring you stories of four women.
All these women have been cycling either to their work/education place or to run errands or do shopping or even travel to meet their friends nearby. Their choice of using cycles has not only improved their health but also the city’s and our health as they are not contributing to the growing pollution and congestion levels in Guwahati.
Karobi Gogoi Hazarika, 44, School Teacher
Karobi Gogoi Hazarika learned cycling when she was in school but lost touch with it while growing up. In 2011 during a visit to Ladakh, she saw people cycling on the hills there and got inspired to take up cycling again. Back from Ladakh she brought a new cycle during her stay in Gurgaon near Delhi and used to cycle to nearby places. She met and got encouraged to keep cycling by a lot of people there.
When she returned to her hometown Guwahati a few years back she got a new cycle after her older one got stolen. She now uses it to travel to nearby places to meet her friends, do some shopping or run errands. With a close group of friends she also rides to nearby places.
She believes that proper cycling infrastructure in the city will make people feel safe to cycle and allow their children to cycle as well. She also says that teaching school students about cycling will inculcate the habit in them. In fact, Sanskriti – The Gurukul, the school she works at, had arranged some cycling rides for the students.
While cycling in Guwahati, she always wears a helmet and she feels safe wearing it and has also felt that many people respect her more. But at the same time, she has met some rude motor vehicle users on the streets who hardly give any respect to other people on the road, especially cyclists and pedestrians.
Madhabi Bhadra, 35, School Staff
Madhabi Bhadra is originally from Mangaldoi and currently resides in Guwahati for her work. She learned and used to cycle in her village but started doing it regularly for the last year. She was motivated to cycle to her school by her employer and director of the school, Ms Ashoka Sarma. She says she is very comfortable cycling to her school and takes an interior lane to travel to her school from her residence, thus avoiding the heavy traffic on the main roads.
She says she will continue cycling as firstly it takes her much less time and secondly it helps save her a lot of money as well. On her part, she too had been encouraging her colleagues to take up cycling.
As of now she has not faced any problems while cycling to her work but feels better road conditions and street lighting will help people like her to use their cycle during the night as well.
Parismita Rabha, 20, University Student
Parismita Rabha is a student doing her integrated Master’s degree at Gauhati University. Like most people, she learned cycling during her childhood but picked it up again during the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown after she brought a new cycle. She took it up to improve her health. During the lockdown, she rode around her home in the city to nearby places along with her friends.
After her college started, she took her cycle to the campus and now uses it to travel from her hostel to her class as well as around the campus. A few of her friends also do the same.
She finds it very convenient to move around and without having to spend money on fuel as well. Her parents have been quite supportive. However, she finds it a little scary to cycle on the city streets because of the heavy traffic.
She feels that having proper cycle parking space inside the campus will encourage more people to bring their cycles. She also feels that women and girls need to be made aware of the benefits of cycling, especially on their health. She is eager to take up initiatives to promote cycling on the university campus.
Rejiya Khatun, 18, Street Vendor
Rejiya Khatun learned cycling during the lockdown from her friends and got a new cycle too. She helps her mother manage and run a small roadside shop at Basistha Chariali. She now uses her cycle to travel from her home to her shop and also to meet her friends nearby. Her home is 3 km from her shop for which takes her 10-15 minutes to travel.
The road conditions are good however she finds the noisy honking of cars and big motor vehicles very irritating. She finds most people driving a motor vehicle as respectful but some are quite rude and always in a hurry.
She loves cycling as she feels very free using it has found it useful to keep herself fit and active. She intends to keep cycling and hopes to motivate more girls in her neighbourhood to do so.
Guwahati Active Mobility Forum (GAMOF) is a group of active citizens working towards making Guwahati the most Walking and Cycling friendly city in India by 2030. Its members comprise Academicians and Educators, Entrepreneurs, Urban and Transport Planners, Businessmen, Media personnel as well as Government and Corporate employees.