Critical Mass Not the Only Universal Aspect of Bangalore Bike Activism

bangalore-CM-thumbs-up.jpgBangalore Critical Mass starts, sometimes with a thumbs up salute, from Cubbon Park at 4:30 p.m. every last Saturday.
What a joy to ride my bike through the insanely congested Bangalore streets, surrounded by a group of rambunctious bicyclists! The first anniversary of the Bangalore Critical Mass attracted about 50 riders and felt shockingly familiar, taking me right back to the first anniversary of our Critical Mass in 1993, when SFBC volunteers presented Critical Mass riders with a big birthday cake on the Panhandle. The Bangalore Critical Mass ended at "Food Street," a famous alley that's evolved from a magnet for street vendors to a sort of Indian food mall.

But the ride isn't nearly all that's universal about our movement, I've come to learn.

Bengaluru, as Bangalore is now called, is a huge city of 6 million people. More so than the rest of India, it's transformed in the past decade, becoming the Silicon Valley of South Asia and host to a large middle class with international tastes. Along with the wealth has come an abandonment of the bicycle, with only six percent of trips made by bike down from 16 percent a decade ago.

A small group of bike activists is aiming to change that.

They shun the classic Indian upright bicycles for mountain bikes, just as Americans have shunned old Schwinns. Many of them wear helmets, the only Indian bicyclists I've seen with them. And they go on recreational rides, posting their routes on and sharing information as on the sfbike mailing list.