Nagpur’s 29-year-old cycling enthusiast Deepanti Pal has been appointed as the first Bicycle Mayor of the city to accelerate the city’s approach to cycling. She will hold the post for the next 2 years.
The Bicycle Mayor Network was established and is coordinated by BYCS, which is an Amsterdam-based social enterprise driven by the belief that bicyles transform cities and cities transform the world. BYCS (pronounced as Bicycle Space) works internationally with businesses, governments and non-profit organisations to initiate and scale breakthrough ideas around cycling.
BYCS, through its mission 50 by 30, aims to create an environment where 50% of all trips in a city will be taken by bike by 2030. BYCS emphasizes that cycling not only provides active, clean mobility solutions for cities but it also improves public mental and physical health, improves the environment, builds stronger communities and fosters new, sustainable economic opportunities.
Deepanti is currently one of the best endurance riders in India. She was a double Super Randonneur last year, having completed 200 kms, 300 kms, 400 kms and 600 kms brevets twice. She also won the Khasdar bicycle race last year in Nagpur and finished 2nd at the nationals this year. As the bicycle mayor of Nagpur, Deepanti’s job will be to work across all parts of the community to identify the most pressing issues and then bring people together to work on implementing practical solutions.
The focus areas for bicycle mayors can be very varied. For example, in South Africa’s Cape Town, the bicycle mayor has been educating young women to ride, allowing them to access education and employment for the first time. In India, the bicycle mayors are all actively tackling the air pollution crisis in their respective cities, while in Amsterdam there is a focus on improving safety for children.
Deepanti’s intial focus in Nagpur as bicycle mayor will be:
Safety of bicyclists
→ Traffic rules and regulations for cyclists
→ Separate roads/lanes for bicyclists
Commute more, earn more!
→ Promoting commuting through bicycles
→ Encouraging companies/workplaces to promote bicycling and create policies such as compensation/perks to employees based on the number of kilometres and days they use the bicycle to commute.
→ Ensuring insurance of bicyclists and their bikes against accidents, theft and damage.
An elated Deepanti said, “I am really pleased to be named as the first Bicycle Mayor of Nagpur. This gives me an opportunity to work strongly in an area which is very close to my heart; an area which needs increased attention for greater good of humanity. In Nagpur, we struggle to see mornings in summer. We struggle to find a shade for our vehicles. We stay indoors from 7 am to 6 pm. We jostle for shade at a traffic light. This is happening because we have forgotten the humble bicycle.”
Deepanti added, “Bicycle is a solution to all the problems we face. If we all start bicycling, our city will become pollution-free, we will not have to cut trees to widen roads and no one will get hurt on the road. I urge people to support me and help me organise events to promote bicycling.”
On Deepanti’s selection as bicycle mayor of Nagpur, Maud de Vries, co-founder of BYCS, said, “We need to ensure our cities are more livable and ready for the challenges of the future. But the changes required are not happening fast enough. We know that the bicycle is key to transforming this, and we know that every city can benefit from having a Bicycle Mayor to unlock this potential. We are thrilled to welcome Deepanti to the international Bicycle Mayor network and excited to see what happens next in Nagpur.”