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Published on: Aug. 24, 2020, 2:42 p.m.
The cycle of life
  • When in doubt pedal it out

By Yeshi Seli. Assistant Editor, Business India

Everyone’s life has been completely out of gear since the outbreak of the pandemic. For fitness freaks who used to regularly hit the gyms, their routine has hit a roadblock. It’s due to all these factors that there has been a surge in the demand for cycles across India.

As a result what used to be once considered a poor man’s ride is fast becoming a medium of transport for many, besides, of course, being a source of exercise. “From selling 1.25 lakh cycles every month (2019) we are now selling close to 1.75 lakh cycles every month, since June 2020. Besides, the demand for high-end cycles with gears has increased manifold. As a result of which, we have scaled up our production from manufacturing 25,000 high-end cycles every month in 2019 to 50,000 in July 2020,” says Rishi Pahwa, Joint Managing Director, Avon Cycles.

Interestingly, there is no demand for Chinese cycles, and this has given a further boost to manufacturers of the Indian cycle manufacturing sector. There has also been a surge in the demand for gym equipment for personal usages – like stationary cycles, cross trainers, etc. A lot of people are buying these to workout at home. “In the non-gym segment, we used to sell close to Rs1.5 crore worth of fitness equipment every month for domestic use in 2019. This has increased to Rs4 crore since June 2020,” Pahwa added.

According to estimates, cycle production in India was 1.1 crore annually, and this has increased by over 25 per cent. The highest growth has been in the high-end fancy cycles (over 150 per cent).
 
Sales are booming

Standard cycles cost around Rs3,600. The hybrid range begins from Rs4,500 and goes up to Rs80,000 or even Rs1,00,000. Cycles with gears sell for Rs15,000 to Rs40,000. Sales of cycles have doubled in small shops. “I used to sell around 25 cycles on an average every day; this has doubled since the lockdown was eased,” says Shanti Swaroop, a cycle-shop owner in Delhi.

While some people are gearing up to cycle to work, there are some who deserve mention as they have been cycling to work for a long time – promoting fitness and also saving the environment. Regional PF Commissioner Delhi, Rizwan Uddin, has been cycling to work every day. He cycles 44 kms to and from work every day, instead of using his official car. “I began cycling to work in 2012, when I was posted in Gwalior. Traffic in Delhi is challenging, but that hasn’t deterred me. It keeps me fit and is environment-friendly. It’s wonderful to see now, post Covid, people are getting interested in cycling. I do hope this is not just a fad, for the interim, and continues forever,” says Uddin.

A month ago, the Centre sent an advisory to states and Union Territories, asking them to come up with short, medium and long-term plans to promote cycling and walking, among other interventions, for safe urban transit systems post Covid-19. The advisory said cities across the world were ramping up their cycling systems in response to the corona virus crisis.

Kolkata has already taken the lead to cater to the recent increase in demand for cycling by permitting bicyclists to cut through neighbourhood lanes, thereby reducing their travel distance. In India, only 10 per cent of urban streets have sidewalks, resulting in high fatality rates for non-motorised transport (NMT) users. Cyclists will be encouraged only if it becomes safe.

The short-term strategy outlined in the Centre’s advisory includes creating temporary pedestrian areas, footpaths, and cycle lanes through removable barricades, tape, cones, road markings/painting, and mobile signs on identified corridors/areas. It seeks to encourage the closure of one or more lanes to promote walking and cycling at a specific time or on a specific day.

People will switch to cycling or walking if there is safe infrastructure for them. Cycling is a good option for people who have to travel short distances. It will also take the load off the public transport systems that run on half or one-third capacity due to social distancing norms.

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