LAHORE - Fresh morning breeze blows in your face as you start cycling to some destination in the city with your friends, whose faces are beaming with the new exhilarating experience. It is an activity that keeps you healthy and fresh throughout the day.

An excited cyclist Nauman Adil, who is a banker by profession, told The Nation while he narrated how and why he recently joined the Canal Cyclists Community (CCC). The group that was formed in October 2013 organises cycle rides for its male and female members. Basically it is different families coming together to enjoy cycle rides in the city. CCC is not the only group that has come on the scene to reclaim the city roads and streets. Critical Mass Lahore is another major group.

Not very long ago cycle used to be main mode of transport in the city. Bikes are back on the roads but not as means of transport but by those who love to ride a bicycle for the love of sport and fun. Interestingly most of bike rides come from affluent families. The interest has yet to trickle down to the majority of Lahoris. 

Neela Gumband Market caters to the needs of bikers. Nauman said when new members come we offer them our extra bikes for rides. “Later we tell them to buy the cheapest ones. For example we tell them to go Sohrab bicycles that cost around Rs 8,000. Caronos and Tropix bikes are very good. They cost around Rs 25,000 to Rs 60,000. Zaheer Cycles and Chinese Star Cycles are the main outlets where you can buy these bikes. 

Rafay Alam, founding member of Critical Mass Lahore, who started the group in 2008 lamented that the city has been left with no space for the commuters and cyclists. “A lot of development work is going on and many new roads have been built but unfortunately they have not made a separate track for cyclists like all international cities like London and all over Europe.

“Jail Road Signal-Free corridor is most unfriendly road for the cyclists. Moreover, riding a cycle is become a taboo these days, women in current seniors has been intentionally left aside from cycling and people consider it as negative thing in our society,” Rafay was of the view. 

“Along with local tours in Lahore we have done some exotic tours of other cities included Changa Manga forest. Every Sunday around 20 to 50 people gather to make a difference through their resolve to cycle around in whatever the season it is.

 “When you ride a cycle you become friend with the class that has been sidelined and marginalized in our society and it is about class distinction.

“Current pollution level in the city has risen to a level where cycling is not recommended and we suggest people to ride during holidays and weekends when there is less traffic.   

Another member of CML Nofel Elahi said their group in February cycled to Kalar Kahar Salt Range. “We have visited Malot Temples and Ganga Ram's Samadhi whose monument is in a very dilapidated condition.

“We also visited Bradlaugh Hall a famous place for political speeches before partition. However now perhaps no one is aware of this place and our archeological department has not paid attention to this site. Most of the times we gather at Jalal Sons Bakery, Main Market, Gulberg  and a ride through Punjab University fields,” Nofel said. 

Critical Mass Lahore gets its name from a worldwide cycling movement which started in early 90s to reclaim the streets and adopt cycling again as a medium of transport.

Founding member of CCC Saqib Mukhtar, who is a banker by profession, said he got the idea from his brother who lived in USA where cycling is a common practice. “Firstly in Islamabad then in Lahore I started the campaign and with perusing my passion towards cycling I along with other friends managed to get 20 to 30 members on every Sunday for a ride,” he said.

Saqib said so far they had organized 83 events, including guided tours to heritage sites in Walled City.