‘Power the Pedal’, a new social campaign is looking to build a community of women who wish to reclaim city space by riding bicycles. This also serves as a wonderful way to open up job prospects and fulfills women labourers’ travel needs as they tend to use different modes of transport compared to men, many of them resorting to walking to their workplace.
Since the household ownership of motorized two-wheelers and cars has primarily been taken charge of by men, women make up only 10% of all license holders in India. Low-wage women don’t have the privilege of owning a vehicle and try to save up on travel cost by walking. However, the distance can range from two to ten kilometers for most, making it extremely tiresome and stressful.
The ‘Power the Pedal’ campaign emancipates women from the constraints of distance and allows them to travel to their workplace and beyond while being kind to the planet. Speaking to a website, Neelu, a 26-year-old resident of the urban village Ramghad, Gurgaon, explains how cycling provides her the freedom to move around as she pleases. “On Sundays, I like to take my kids to different places on the bicycle”.
Using a bicycle also reduces women’s ‘time poverty’, giving them access to traveling three times faster than walking – a 30-minute walk takes only ten minutes on a bicycle. Since some women have more responsibilities, having to juggle work and home life together, these small lifestyle changes can help them go about their day with ease, reducing the stress mounting on them.
The concept of cycling is not new to India, but for women, it’s a huge milestone, with studies showing how certain measures used to encourage cycling among girls can help achieve high transformation. This evidence comes from Bihar, a state regarded as ‘highly patriarchal’ in India. In 2006, the Bihar government started a new conditional cash transfer scheme under which girls who were enrolled in secondary school were awarded cash to purchase cycles.
The aim was to improve accessibility, especially to girl students. This not only saves time for girls and women but also protects them from street harassment that they fall victim to while walking. Many women succumb to the pressure of public harassment and drop out of school or college because it’s difficult for them to travel safely. This hampers not only their education but also their mental health. The ‘Power the Pedal’ campaign highlights the concept of accepting cycling as a way of bringing social change.