Rizwan Uiddin is a regional PF commissioner. Beyond this official façade, he is a dedicated environmentalist, a passionate cyclist and a motivational speaker, all blended in one personality. For his fans, he is a symbol of social awareness and exuberance. His mission is to spread happiness in the society through his cycling expedition to every nook and corner of the city.
Cycling comes in handy to Rizwan to carry out all his tasks. It helps him in not only in reaching out to people, but also in promoting the exercise as a fitness regime. He cycles his way to his office every day from his residence in Sector 22 Dwarka, South West Delhi to Bhikaji Kama Place, South Delhi. He says on an average he cycles 50 kilometre every day.
Not only this, he also holds motivational sessions at schools in general and other places in particular if invited to target specific groups. He makes it a point to ride his bicycle wherever he travels to. His mission to create awareness among youngsters is purely a labour of love undertaken without any material reward.
The following are the excerpts from a tit-a-tat Alt Lipi recently had with Rizwan Uiddin on his life, his social endeavour which he calls as happiness mission and his passion for cycling.
To begin with apprise us about your tryst with cycling. When did you took to cycling and what was the motivation behind it?
There are three phases of my love for cycling. Initially, I started cycling while studying in Institute of Engineering and Rural Technology (IERT) in Allahabad. I used to travel 40 kilometers per day, to reach my college, then to attend tuition classes and finally to travel back home.
The second phase started in Dehradun where I bought another bicycle to travel to places for giving tuitions. However, once I was posted at Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation’s Head office at Bhikaji Cama Place, New Delhi after 14 years of service, I started feeling a little dull, and was gaining weight disproportionately. One day my batch mate and EPFO Regional Commissioner Subhash Sharma casually said that if I had to lose weight, I needed to ride a bicycle. Thus, my third spell of cycling started around December, 2012.
I used to ride from my resident at Millennium Apartment of Sector-9, Dwarka to my office at Bhikaji Cama Place (more than 35 km per day). After a few days of riding on busy roads in Delhi, I started enjoying riding or it can be said my rides became joy rides and sometimes cherished the idea of riding amidst the heavy traffic.
One day, I rode almost 50 km at a stretch with just a ten-minute break. Later, as time passed cycling a fascination with me. I regularly rode to my workplace in Delhi from December, 2012 till August, 2013 till I was transferred to Gwalior. In Gwalior, I went on riding to the workplace and wherever I had to travel alone enjoying the benefits of both health and environment.
How do you relate cycling with the wellbeing of the society?
Cycling is an indicator of quality of life and prosperity of a society, its overall wellbeing and is a mark of progress as it ensures overall development of the citizen. Happiest countries in the world have adopted cycling as the primary mode of transport.
Cycling improves health and saves fuel and hence has a direct bearing health and the economy. It brings efficiency, quality and productivity besides saving a substantial chunk of foreign exchange that goes into import of petroleum products. It also curbs pollution and thereby keeps the environment healthy and the society stress free.
Recently, the world’s largest cycle garage has been opened in Utrecht, The Netherlands, where more than 6,000 bicycles can be parked at a time. There are more 10,000 people who ride bicycles to their workplace. The country has improved its happiness index and is among top six happiest countries of the world. Similarly, Denmark, which was the happiest country of the world till the previous year, has also adopted cycling as a primary mode of transport.
I have a dream to improve our happiness index through cycling and I am doing whatever possible I could do to achieve this goal.
What are your future plans to promote cycling?
I am dedicated to promote the idea of ‘Health and Environment” in India. India’s happiness index is not appreciable as we languishing at 133rd position in UN Happiness Report rating. ‘Health’ and ‘Generosity’ are the two main parameters to judge a country’s happiness. Through cycling, we can promote a healthy society as today’s busy lifestyle won’t permit regular visits to gym.
As I have told you I have committed to cycling to commute to my workplace. This provides me two hours of regular exercise every day, besides it helps prevent a car coming on the roads and thereby reducing pollution.
In future, we would be keep up our efforts to motivate citizens to adopt cycling as a mode of transport. I have associated myself with many government officials in Madhya Pradesh including collector, SP, commissioner and social organisation, educational institutions and government agencies to carry forward for the mission. We have organised cycle rallies in many towns and district headquarters of the state. Officials participated wholeheartedly and rode bicycles with students and citizens.
Future of cycling in India is bright. Our efforts have already borne fruties and motivated many people to ride. In Gwalior, where I worked in association the administration, schools, HR forums, BSF, Air Force and the institutions associated with them including LNIPE. I personally observed that on a particular road where there used to be one bicycle for every six two-wheelers, now, there a bicycle can be seen for every three two-wheelers.
After returning to Delhi last year, I resumed my mission.
What is your vision for the nation and cycling?
A number of cycling clubs are coming up. Through Audaux India events, cyclists have to travel 200 km in 13 hours, 300 km in 20 hours, 400 km in 30 hours and 600 km in 40 hours. Those who complete all the events in the season are declared Super Randoneur (Long distance cyclist). These events attract youth in droves.
I wish we could plan initial events of up to 50 and 100 km. This would be more attractive. Besides, if cycle rallies are organised in a planned manner, people would come forward. Today, I can see many students, including girls ride to schools in places like Delhi. This is a positive sign. I view cycling as the most powerful mode of transport through which we can save a substantial cost of crude import.
With the slogan ‘Health and Environment’ we can adopt cycling as a national mode of transport. We can compete with the world and save enormous amount of money that goes into procuring petroleum. The nation would prosper significantly once all our citizens are healthy and happy. Cycling not only improves our health but also reduces stress. A ride to your workplace can be one of the objectives for which requisite infrastructure can be provided.
Is Delhi’s infrastructure suitable for cycling?
Delhi boasts of a network of widest roads unlike other cities of the country. On a positive note, I would like to answer to the question in affirmative. Yes! Delhi’s infrastructure is suitable for cycling, but the same has been encroached upon by the ever-increasing motorised vehicles. I am regularly riding to Bhikaji Cama Place from Dwarka and have to often use bylanes to reach my destination in time. I take one hour’s time to ride approximately 22.5 km from one end to another. I, therefore, recommend the government to provide dedicated cycling lanes wherever possible to encourage more cyclists to come on the road. It should also ensure parking space for the bicycles. I know a few cyclists who have to travel more than 50 km a day due to lack of cycle-friendly infrastructure. It is our will power that keeps us going otherwise how young students could ride to their schools every day.
What would you suggest to the authorities to promote cycling?
Pollution is a matter of grave concern for all of us. Even as we perceive its ill effects in the form of fast deteriorating health of the people the government has yet to take note of it. The pollution induced cost of our citizens’ health is telling on the nations as a whole. My suggestions to the government to improve the situation are:
- A census of cyclists to be carried out and the data be shared with public through TV, radio, print, social media and the other media outlets to motivate people to adopt cycling.
- Those who cycle their way to workplace and travel extraordinary distance on a daily basis should be acknowledged publically.
- A comprehensive programme aimed at evolving a new India should be part of a policy of the Ministries of Health and Family Welfare, Environment, Sports, HRD and Tourism. It should focus on the real issues directly impacting socio-economic situation in the country. Once people start working on their health, they will start adopting healthy habits, eat health food and live healthy and thereby move away from unhealthy habits and thus social evils can be curtailed in highly effective manner. All this can be achieved if the government starts focusing on promoting cycling.
- Under the programme, provisions can be made for adequate parking space for bicycles, promotion of cycling events like triathlon cyclathons. Departments must organise the cycling events just like they do to promote yoga.
- Schemes should be in place for immediate provision of incentives to the government employees who commute to their workplace on bicycle and avoid motorised transport. Besides, a subsidy could be given to them on purchasing bicycles.
- Dedicated cycle tracks may be provided along the bylanes, which are generally not being used optimally. Volunteers may be enrolled to ensure implementation of the initiatives. For example, a day can be marked car-free at Connaught Place with cyclists having a free run. Proper parking spaces may be identified. Volunteers may be deployed to safeguard bicycles. People may be educated on efficient ride.
- Special incentives in taxation and land for industrialists wanting to open bicycles manufacturing units.
- Industrialists may associate themselves with the make-in-India initiatives so that we can manufacture world class bicycles in the country.
What challenges did you face while using cycle as a senior officer in public sector?
I hardly face any challenge while using cycle. It is my personal choice. Some of my friends have a different opinion, but I just can respect their views, as I know what I am doing. There is nothing better than working for the cause of health and environment where our society is suffering from lifestyle diseases. Traffic congestion and pollution are the factors responsible for intolerance, stress and dull life. Happiness index in India has been deteriorating year after year. So, I feel there is a greater need for officers to come forward and take lead to help bring about happiness in society.
What are your other hobbies?
Cooking, composing two liners, training (on motivation), travelling, music are my hobbies which give happiness to me and others. I love cooking delicacies and enjoy serving them to people. That is a great source of happiness.
What is your message to society?
Life is beautiful, make it more beautiful through your consistent endeavours. Strive for happiness, health and self development rather than running after material wealth. Just wish people to join on a mega project which is about living a happy life post retirement in a community (through conservation of resources and environment).
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The opinion expressed in the article is of the writer. Writer is a freelance journalist/journalist based in Delhi