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Here’s More Than One Reason To Chuck Your Cars And Cycle To Work

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By Rhea Kumar:

When was the last time you were late to school or office because of a traffic jam? When was the last time you complained about the noise and chaos on your city roads? And when was the last time you heard about an incident of road rage?

Despite an efficient public transportation system, most metropolitan cities suffer from an overdose of cars and private vehicles. Most systems of public transportation such as the Metro or the bus system run on pre-designated routes and do not provide door-to-door transportation services. Besides, the relatively high standards of living in such places drive up the demand and usage of private vehicles. The result: congested roads, noise pollution, rising stress levels and, of course, an unprecedented increase in air pollution.

cycling

But now, various organizations and movements are suggesting biking as an alternative form of transportation: one that is not only eco-friendly and safe, but also a great deal of fun! The BikeNYC movement in New York City is the most high profile and successful effort in this direction. Established in 1973, this broad based movement connects about 10,000 biking enthusiasts across the city in an effort to promote bikes as a viable alternative to cars and other vehicles that run on fuel. BikeNYC has helped develop a citywide network of lanes that separate bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers. It has also launched a bike-sharing program wherein bikers can pick up a bike from one of its kiosks and drop it off at any other kiosk once they have finished their journey. Besides this, BikeNYC supports and organizes various bike tours happening across New York State.

In another initiative, school students in Lancaster, Pennsylvania started a campaign to promote separate bike paths in crowded cities. The trauma and indignity of being squeezed off the road onto pavements by huge cars and vans motivated these young bikers to take up this cause. Since 2009, these students have been working with the students of Franklin and Marshall College on forming a labyrinth of trails across Lancaster to promote hiking and biking. With the help of various governmental and non-governmental organizations, organized an event called Bikeapalooza, aimed at educating the citizens of Lancaster on the benefits of biking.

Unknown to most of us, there are as many as 375 bike-sharing programs around the world, made of an estimated fleet of 236,000 bicycles. The central concept of these systems is to provide free or affordable access to bicycles for short-distance trips in an urban area as an alternative to motorized public transport or private vehicles. Bicycle sharing systems have also been cited as a way to solve the ‘last mile’ problem and connect users to public transit networks. Such movements allow bike lovers to pursue their passion, without fear of being run over by the next car they encounter. Truly, what can be more liberating than biking smoothly along a busy street on a bright sunny day with the wind flying through your hair, while watching drivers and passengers gnash their teeth as they crawl through a huge traffic pile-up? And, in the process, if you are able to burn off some calories as well, what more could you ask for?

Apart from promoting personal freedom, there is also a significant environmental cause that these movements espouse in their own subtle way. And that is the all-pervasive issue of vehicular pollution. Scientific studies reveal that at low speeds, vehicles use fuel less efficiently, and therefore contribute more to air pollution. So not only do traffic jams cause headaches for those caught in them, they also probably cause respiratory problems for everyone else in the vicinity.

Closer home, can we borrow and adapt some ideas from these movements? India has been ranked the third most polluted country after China and the United States of America. In New Delhi, vehicles move at an average speed of 10 or 20 kilometres per hour owing to massive traffic jams. About 50% of Bangalore’s children suffer from asthma due to continuous exposure to polluted air. Is this the legacy we want to leave for our children? Do we want them to suffer in a world choked by the noxious effects of our activities? Against this backdrop, an effort to promote biking in Indian cities certainly seems like a practical solution to the problem. The Bike sharing model will definitely be a huge draw in cities such as Pune and Bangalore that are emerging as education hubs and IT hubs. It will provide easy and quick mobility to students and young professionals, who may not own vehicles of their own.

So the next time you are stuck in a traffic jam, use the time to think. Think of how you can reduce the stress caused by traffic jams. Think of how you can make things better for yourself and everybody else around you. Think of how your daily mundane journey to the office can be converted into an adventure. And perhaps, you will be encouraged to buy the next cycle you see!

You must be to comment.
  1. Sanket

    it was really nice article, nicely written and now its time to wake up otherwise it will b too late…!!!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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