Pedalling 1,000 km to popularise cycling

Bangalore: Around 100 people, including women and two foreigners, are set to pedal 1,000 km from Bangalore to the picturesque Nilgiris to popularise cycling as eco-friendly transport mode.

Rosanna Nitti, an Italian and an architect, will be pedalling along with her husband Rajesh Nair. The other is Mark Hemhauser, a librarian, at the Maryland University in the United States.

Among the women riders are Malvika Jain, 25, an advertising professional in Mumbai, Priya Ravindranath, 28, an electrical engineer, Anjana Deepak, 31, a software engineer, both working in Bangalore, and Kavitha Kanaparthi, a race director at Globeracers, a professional running organisation as she calls it.

A majority of the riders are software professionals. Others are doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers and entrepreneurs from across India - from Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Noida, Gugaon, Goa, Kanpur, Kolkata and Delhi.

Called the Tour of Nilgiris, the expedition is in its third year and is organised by Bangalore-based `RideACycle Foundation (RAC-F)`.

The tour starts Dec 16 and ends Dec 23. The riders will take the Bangalore-Kollegal-Gundlupet-Bandipur-Ooty (Udhagamandalalam)-Kalpetta-Virajpet-KRS (Krishnaraja Sagar Dam near Mysore)-Bangalore route.

The route passes through Bandipur forests and offers breathtaking scenery on way to Ooty.

Each participant has to pay a donation of Rs.15,999 to RAC-F to cover accommodation, food, medical assistance and minor cycle repair during the tour.

The 2009 edition had 12 women cyclists but this year there will be 10.

"Although we have had number of women registering this year, there are a lot of factors that can cause our riders (not just women) to withdraw," RAC-F and TFN Ten media coordinator Navin Mathew told IANS.

He said reasons for lesser number women riders could be "difficulty in getting sufficient leaves from their workplaces due to staffing issues, family commitments and other unforeseen health reasons".

This year, the RAC-F has introduced the Charity Rider concept "to give back more to the communities in the Nilgiris". However, the charity rider can decide the charity organisation to which the amount he has collected to be donated.

Under this concept, the charity rider has to raise Rs.100,000. The five have so far collected a total of over Rs.430,000.

While four charities are in the Nilgiris region, one rider has chosen Aarohi, an organisation which works for youth in the Kumaon region in Uttarakhand.

The four organisations in the Nilgiris regions that will benefit are Vishwa Bharathi Vidyodaya Trust, which runs a school for tribals in Gudalur, BR (Biligiri Ranga) Hills Tribal School, Viveka - Tribal Center for Learning, also in the BR hills area, and Wayanad Girijana Seva Trust, that educates school drop outs in Wayanad area in Kerala.

The RAC-F was founded in 2008 by a group of Bangalore-based cycling enthusiast as a `not-for-profit advocacy organisation promoting sustainable transport, responsible travel, and environmentally and socially responsible bicycling opportunities`.

The RAC-F has been campaigning for a dedicated lane for cyclists in Bangalore.

It also has a Cycle ReCycle campaign to get unused/discarded bicycles back to life and give them to needy students, said Mathew.

The RAC-F holds cycling workshops - talking to corporate offices to encourage more people to take up cycling, he said.