We constantly hear warnings of climate change. The leaders of the world are not doing much, but there are many things that we as citizens can start in order to reduce the rising temperature of Earth. Leaving our cars is one of the biggest steps towards improving the environment. A bicycle ride will keep not only us, but also our nature healthy. Countries like the Netherlands set a good example to the world.
Back in the day, bicycles were ideal for short distances. But as time passed, cars took to roads as a symbol of convenience and prosperity. Now, the cycle is returning once again. Only a few countries are taking adequate steps to protect their children from the effects of climate change. Your efforts, such as taking a walk or bicycle instead of taking a car for short distances, and forcing your leaders to take steps to save the environment, can have a huge impact.
It has been more than 300 years since the first bicycle was made. Once a poor man’s vehicle, the bicycle has now accrued a sporty, recreational tag by rich companies. It has become very popular amongst urban youth, but the rural demand for bicycles is not picking up very much. This can be attributed to better public transport options and the easy availability of two-wheelers at low monthly installments. Over time, urban and rural India has experienced a gradual reduction in the number of cyclists. What used to be one of the primary modes of transport in the city is now a fading memory, with the few remaining ones staging a difficult survival.
Last year, Delhi was announced the most polluted city in the world, and National Green Tribunal has set up a strong action of rules and regulations to implement to protect the environment. Bicycles were very popular in India until the 1990s. Then, people started buying cars as a symbol of prosperity. Now, India is looking at bicycles once again to improve the air quality. Meanwhile, the popularity of bicycles has gone down in the metropolitan cities. The conventional set of wheels that ruled the roads for ages has been replaced by futuristic and trendy models having sleek features.
Domestic demand for bicycles is decreasing in many countries. This has happened even in countries like China, Germany, Austria, and the US. China is, therefore, banking on exports. Every year, China produces around 80 million units. In 2005, it produced 450 million bicycles. More than two-thirds of production is meant for exports, mainly to Europe, Middle East, South America, and the United States. Around 9 out of every ten bikes bought by Americans are made in China. However, the Chinese industry is facing rough weather, particularly on the export front.
An ecologically sound method of transport, the bicycle does not contribute to the greenhouse effect. It is the only ecologically sound means of transport ever invented. Yet, because of its simplicity, it gets ignored.
While choosing a bike, the buyer has to keep a few things in mind. One has to select a good height that ensures a comfortable ride. The frame length is also important for cyclists. One should be able to reach the handlebars easily. Of course, the bicycle seat is adjustable. Regarding safety features, the pedal should have an anti-slip grip. There should be standard reflectors at the front, rear and the spoke of the bike for making the bike more visible at night. It is better to take a test ride.
The bicycle manufacturing industry in India is located in Ludhiana, which accounts for 80 per cent of the bicycles and parts, following Kanpur, Mumbai, Sonepat, Chennai, and Kolkata. Even in rich geographies of Europe and the United States, high fuel prices are compelling people to switch to bicycles. About 20 million bicycles have been sold annually in the US over the past few years, accounting for about $6 billion in annual sales.
India manufactures around 12 million bicycles annually. Ludhiana manufactures more than 6.5 per cent of the total bicycles. Hero Cycles has a production capacity of about 5.5 million bicycles per annum and manufactures 35-40% of the country’s production.
There is a change in demand patterns. Earlier, villagers preferred standard cycles, but now demand fancier ones. The fancy segment is growing by 12-15% per annum. The future of the modern fancy bicycle industry is bright. However, for survival, the companies have to successfully re-structure and modernise to achieve global competitiveness in terms of cost, distribution system and quality.
Some companies have launched battery-operated electric bikes, or e-bikes. These are eco-friendly and pollution-free, as they save petrol and protect the environment. The two-wheeler does not require any license, registration, insurance, or maintenance. It is easy to operate and has no difficulty in recharging the battery. A major problem facing bicycle manufacturers, however, is the rising steel prices in India. Also, the industry is facing stiff competition from countries like China.
This year, let’s be determined to raise our voices to stop the factors of climate change. Not everyone needs to get on the road for this, but one can put pressure on their local leaders and talk to people about this. Remember, talking only makes sense.
About the author: Rohit Dhyani is a journalist and professional documentary filmmaker. Follow him on Twitter: @RohitDhyani.