Meet Prasad Reddi, ultra commuter, who has used his bicycle to commute more than 20000 km over the last few years. He has been cycle commuting in Pune.
It always seems impossible until it is done – Nelson Mandela
While sitting in the comfort of our cars, we look out of the window and see tens of thousands of people commuting on their cycle. We automatically think that they are cycling for economic reasons. That they would switch to motorised transport if they could afford it. Many times that is right.
Now, there is a small and growing subset of cyclists, who choose to cycle to work. And not because of financial constraints. One such person is Prasad Reddi. He not just commutes on the humble bicycle, but has been doing so at eye watering levels.
Over the last 4 years, Prasad has clocked some 22000 km and counting in just commute rides. 18000 of those kilometres has been riding to and fro work. Many a spandex clad cyclist of the country are unable to put together the mileage, which Prasad has managed.
Prasad, originally from Tadepalligudem, Andhra Pradesh, has been living and working in Pune for the past 15 years. Ironically, he works in the automotive industry where he specialises in vehicle interiors and passenger safety.
Cycle Commuting in Pune with Prasad
Bicycles re-entered the life of Prasad as recently as 2017, where like most of us, he took up these two-wheels for health reasons. Doing short rides of 5 km, which at the time felt long enough!
The cycling bug bit well and truly, and he couldn’t get enough of saddle time. Which is when he struck upon the grand plan of commuting to work on his bicycle.
From then on, he has been regularly commuting. Now he rides to work on a daily basis, covering 30 km and at times riding 50 km to work and back. He has clocked over 33000 km on his three bicycles, with the majority of it being commutes.
His 3 motorised vehicles are now forever parked at home and only taken out when the entire family are going somewhere.
One factor which can make or break your cycle to work experience is your workplace. Prasad is in that manner fortunate. His company is appreciative and supportive of his bicycle commuting regimen.
This has allowed him to now ride to work on a daily basis. Only exceptional circumstances sees him not riding to work. Rain, heat, cold, nothing stops him anymore.
Prasad owns 3 bikes, one of which is a single-speed, all of which he uses for commuting. As he says, “Commuting by cycle is always a good idea in many aspects for own & others benefits. It will soothe our brain thereby works like a stress buster, promotes health, lose weight & importantly very less people get an opportunity to conserve our environment and a cyclist is one of them.“
One major reason why many people shy away from commuting in the country is because of the heat. India is hot, and getting to office sweaty is not much fun. This is what Prasad says about dealing with the heat, “Keeping India aside, we always have problems like heat, cold, rain, dust, traffic etc. There is always one or more solutions to address these problems. Coming to heat, office commutes happen before 10 AM and after 6 PM, heat should not be an issue.“
Infrastructure & Health
The lack of cycling infrastructure isn’t and shouldn’t be a deterrent says Prasad. We cannot wait for infrastructure to be developed by the administration and not do our own part. We collectively need to take matters into our own hands first.
Once there are sufficient number of cyclists, that tipping point will be crossed for the government to take action and build infrastructure. But it is our responsibility to utilise that infrastructure.
Another important point brought up by Prasad is the average road user’s response towards cyclists. Motorised vehicle users belong to the same society as cyclists. We need to collectively help improve our outlook towards a cyclist commuting to work. Irrespective of the economic background of the rider.
Cycling has also helped improve Prasad’s mental and physical health. Riding everyday acts as a stressbuster and has let him be more relaxed and not worry. It also allows him to indulge in his foodie habits more. He now can eat without worry, since he will be burning it off during his bicycle rides.
Over the last 3 years of cycling, he gradually lost 15 kg. Which is the healthiest way to shed those excess kilos.
Finding Solutions Along the Way
Prasad has taken to heart the Nelson Mandela quote at the start of this article. He believes that once you start doing things, you will find solutions along the way.
He progressively started with cycle commuting in Pune. Going from riding once a week to now riding daily. In the initial days he found issues and solutions, like finding place to change into work attire and storing office wear there. Being progressive also will allow you to figure out time, distance, logistics and traffic to make your commute easier.
He is now so comfortable with riding his bike to work, that he has upped the challenge a notch. He started running 15 km to work once a month!
Marrying Automobiles and Bicycles
There might seem a massive dichotomy between riding bicycles and designing cars. Yet, Prasad wears these two hats comfortably. He also points out the direction that the industry is taking towards safety. Not just the safety of the vehicle’s passengers, but the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users.
As a designer and someone who has been deeply embedded in the automobile industry for a decade and a half, the bicycle changed his outlook towards transport. Here’s what he thinks about the role of motorised and non-motorised transport in our forever evolving urban landscape:
For me automobiles are derivative of cycles and now public is depending upon them for every small need, which leads to vehicular traffic & pollution. I realised that we can generate wealth, but cannot restore our environment which is being polluted by various modes. And automobiles are one of the major sources in terms of carbon emissions generation. Hence, I am not denying the use of automobiles. But we have to use them looking at the need. Not for everything like taking the car to go to the shop next door. I cannot alone bring change in the environment conservation, we have to collectively go hand in hand to fight with global warming.
As Prasad quoted Mandela, it becomes possible once you step out and do it. If you are wondering whether it is feasible to start commuting to work, school or college, then the first thing to do is START! Progress one step at a time and it will all flow naturally. And take inspiration from Prasad who has clocked more than 20000 km while commuting on a bicycle…
Also read Mayur Bathija’s experience of commuting in Bangalore and this Guide to Commuting Safely in India. Check out the Review of the Respro Cinqro Pollution Mask for Cyclists.