Tuesday, 4 February 2014

If driving through the city is stressful, take a bicycle to work

The stress of sitting behind the wheels of a luxury car and waiting incessantly for traffic to clear from congested city roads cursing the city corporation, traffic planners and their forefathers, is a familiar experience to anyone who drives to work in Chennai.

While most of us resort to indulging in long phone conversations or tune into to one of the FM stations and suffer the redundant banter of RJs in a futile effort to tackle the rising blood pressure, a few city professionals like Gratian Mathew Govias (49) from Muthukadu have ventured off the beaten track to deal with the situation.

For four days in a week, the busy shipping industry professional rides a bicycle to his workplace near the Chennai port, a ride of 70 kilometers back and forth.

Gratian leaves home in his bicycle at 6 am and rides along the ECR through Palavakkam towards Thiruvanmiyur, Kalakshetra Colony through the Beach Road to reach his office by 7.30 am. “After reaching office, I take a shower and change into formal wear, have breakfast followed by a power nap, and am ready for a grueling day before my staff arrives at work,” Gratian says.

In the evening, he gets back into his cycling gear and takes the long drive back home. The home run takes a little longer as the bicycle enthusiast navigates through peak hour traffic all the way back to his home at Muthukadu.

Despite the exhausting ride, Gratian says that he loves the days he rides bicycle to work. “When I drive home in a car, I am so stressed out by the time I reach that it takes me a shower, half an hour of watching TV and some time alone before I am ready to interact with the family. On days I ride the bicycle home, I’m totally de-stressed by the time I’m home,” he says.

While bicycling to work through city traffic might sound like fun, cyclists in the city point out that they deal with a lot more than just road rage.

A few months ago, Pravin Shekar from Mandaveli who presently runs a market research firm in the city decided to ride a bicycle to work for three days in a week.  “The decision to cycle to work rattled my family. My sister who lives in Besant Nagar came to me and asked if I was going to a financially difficult time and wanted to help out. When I asked her the reason, she said that the family was worried that I had gone back to the bicycle,” he says.

The city corporation has over the past few years made several proposals to set up cycling tracks in selected parts of the city for bicycle lovers. But none of the proposals seem to have taken shape. The most recent proposal of setting up a bicycle track along Cooum River through a distance of 32 kilometers is also in a limbo, sources say.

With most city commuters travelling 10 kilometers or lesser to work, setting up bicycle tracks might just be the best solution to our traffic woes besides improving health standards.  The only hitch is that offices need to have larger bathrooms with adequate shower facilities.

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