World Bicycle Day 2019: The annual holiday celebrates cycling for health, environment

Amsterdam leads in the number of cyclists it supports, with 40% of all commuters using a bicycle to go to work.

Scraped knees and scratched elbow after falling from our cycles are part of what makes childhood memories of playing so nostalgic. Having your elder sister, brother or uncle "holding" the back of the seat, pushing you along...It was the best, most exciting feeling ever — till they let go, resulting in said now-memorable injuries.

As time went by and we grew up, those cycles were left to rust in backyards and building compounds.

In an effort to bring the bicycle and the cycling habit back in fashion, the United Nations declared 3 June World Bicycle Day last year, as a celebration the "uniqueness, longevity, and versatility" of the bicycle.

Days ahead of the celebration last year, Bengaluru also appointing its first ever 'Bicycle Mayor' — the first of its kind in India, Satya Shankaran.

World Bicycle Day 2019: The annual holiday celebrates cycling for health, environment

Representational image. Image credit: AFP PHOTO

Professor Leszek Sibilski of Montgomery College, Maryland, USA and his sociology class petitioned for the bicycle to have its own day, to recognize all its good qualities. Cycling isn't just good for the mind and the body, it helps people lose weight and stay active, prevent heart diseases, even cancer, Sibilski said in an interview.

Cycles are also excellent for the environment, as they do not produce any air-borne pollutants, fumes, and greenhouse gases.

Bicycles are widely used by people in several countries, with Amsterdam leading in numbers (40 percent of all commuters use a bicycle to go to work!).

Using social media, Professor Sibilski and his class spread the word and nominated 3 of June to mark World Bicycle Day — which finally materialized in 2018, when the UN declared it a world holiday. They got influential members of the cycling community to take part in their campaign. A bike sharing system was adopted in the core area of New Delhi, inaugurated by the then-Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Environment, Forests, and Climate Change at the time.

Sibilski, who has taken part in the Olympics as a competitor for cycling, finds the project especially close to his heart. The UN, too, saw value in encouraging countries to reduce their carbon footprints by using cycles and building more pedestrians and bicycles. Cycling and walking have a lot of health benefits, and World Bicycle Day is a fine peg to learn (and educate, given the change) kids and adults alike, in the importance of physical activity as well as cycling in particular.

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