The bicycle mayor Nikita Lalwani might be an instrumentation engineer by profession but she is a cycling evangelist by passion.Nikita’s social startup Cycling Cities will be a unique online ecosystem where one can connect with other cyclists.
She says, “I had been walking to work till then. I chose cycling over other forms of commute primarily for my fitness, but have been hooked since then.”
Bicycle Mayor – Connecting Vadodara to Amsterdam
27 years old Nikita was recently given the honorary title of bicycle mayor of Vadodara by Dutch organisation Cycle Space. Bicycle mayors are being chosen from different cities from around the world like Sydney and Mexico City. She is the first Indian to be chosen for this role.
Nikita will be flying to Amsterdam next week to attend the Bicycle Mayor Summit and also the Velo-city conference, one of the biggest cycling conferences, which will take place in Arnhem and Nijmegen in the Netherlands.
Originally from Kota in Rajasthan, Nikita completed her electronics and communication engineering from NIT Surat, which is where she caught the cycling bug. She recalls, “One of my seniors gifted me her cycle when she graduated and I cycled a lot across our green campus during my last few months in college.”
Cycling Cities, a startup with a social impact
Nikita organises regular cycling events around health,heritage, and community in vadodara. She says, “Cycling is the perfect antidote for our sedentary lifestyle. The icing on the cake is that it’s great for the environment as well and can help cut down use of fossil fuels and reduce air pollution.”
Nikita works for Try Cycling (TRING) Cycle Stations which is a pilot project started last year at the German MNC.Very soon she plans to launch the same at other offices in Vadodara.
The first tour was launched on 18th April 2017, World Heritage Day, which took more than 30 people on a cycling tour around historical Kila-e-daulatabad. Nikita is also planning Food by Cycle, which will be a culinary tour of the city.Nikita says, “I also encourage people to donate their old cycles, which are refurbished and given to needy students.”
Ushering in change
Cycling Cities is getting noticed—in 2016 it was chosen for the women entrepreneurship programme by IIM Udaipur and by World Resource Institute as a new mobility startup for their Accelerator Program.
Nikita says, “The impact started from the day I started cycling three years ago. Now more than a dozen of my colleagues have shifted to cycles and many have started enquiring about how they can start cycling.”
She wants to partner with schools to have a cycling curriculum from kindergarten itself, to bring back the scenario where the parking space was filled with colourful cycles and not big buses, scooters, and motorbikes and also wants to organise creative workshops with knowledge-based learning about the benefits of cycling and health. Maybe including ‘C for cycle’ in the textbooks can help!
Encouraging hotels to invest in a few cycles so that tourists can explore cities on two wheels and having cycle stands and shower facilities in offices so that employees can cycle to work every day is what Nikita hopes to see in future.