Meet Bangalore’s Bicycle Mayor Who Has Been Spearheading The Movement Of Sustainable Transport For 6 Years
Annoyed with Bangalore’s deteriorating traffic conditions, 42-year-old civic activist Sathya Shankaran decided to ditch his car and commute to work on a cycle. Shankaran, who spent some time living in Europe has been inspired by the existing cycling culture which has been spearheading the global movement towards sustainable mobility.
Shankaran’s six-year-long efforts of advocating for a safe, eco-friendly, and sustainable alternative to motorised transport came full circle when he was conferred with the title of Bangalore’s first ‘Bicycle Mayor’ on May 21. He emerged as the winner from among 19 applicants who were competing for the same post.
Sathya’s initiative was not a conscious effort. “I found out that more and more of my friends started cycling which lowered our contribution to the problem. Since then, I am on a mission where I advocate the adoption of walking and cycling as alternatives to cars and bikes,” Sathya told The Logical Indian.
Who is a Bicycle Mayor?
An effort brought forth by an Amsterdam based NGO ByCs along with the Evangelical Social Action Forum (ESAF) in India has been working towards introducing the 50 by 30 programme in the country through which ByCs targets to create a world where 50% of all city trips are covered by bicycles by 2030. The Bicycle Mayor is a non-political honorary two-year position.
Sathya has been elected as the 3rd Bicycle Mayor in India after Vadodara’s Nikita Lalwani and Guwahati’s Arshel Akhtar and he is the 12th such Mayor across the world. Sathya feels that bringing this initiative to Bengaluru is only natural, considering its dynamism and avid citizen activism.
“Representing a city like Bangalore which is the most progressive city in terms of infrastructure and even citizen activism, I thought it would be best to catalyse all the factors which will give me the ability to represent the community of cyclists better,” said Sathya.
The challenges he faces
Sathy’s story truly emerges as a beacon of hope for those who want to make healthier lifestyle choices and for people who are concerned about the environment. However, it isn’t a cakewalk for Sathya to convince people to switch to this sustainable mode of transportation.
He feels that in order to achieve the 50 by 30 target, there needs to be a drastic shift in the mindsets of people. Speaking to The Logical Indian he said, “ Today people aspire to own an Audi, because we tend to think that the more we spend, the more valuable are our purchases, whereas, a bicycle is sweaty and it makes you exercise…there needs to be a shift in the mindset and that is where my job as a Bicycle Mayor becomes critical.”
He says this will be achieved by tapping into people’s contribution to global climate change. “People tend to cyclically contribute to pollution more and more… the younger generation will understand that the world we are leaving for them is going to differ from what it was,” he added.
The way forward
Sathya envisions transforming mindsets through providing education. Having given this platform, he is a few months away from starting ‘The Bike School’ where activists and cycling enthusiasts like Sathya are going to teach young children the science of bikes.
Explaining the initiative, he said that one can teach physics, mathematics, health, environment and so much more, just by using a single bike. The programme which is set to begin in three months will primarily start with eight schools around the Sanjaynagar area of Bangalore.
Sathya understands that one person cannot change the world and to harness the power of all those who want to bring about a change in the city, he is creating ‘Council of Change’ for those who wishes to take charge in the cycling sphere in the city.
In addition to his personal efforts, Sathya will also be in the talks with different government bodies in the city where they will try to create a roadmap which will lead to the ultimate goal of achieving 50 by 30.