Fast, yes, real fast… for the first time, I felt my heartbeats are louder than anything else I hear.
The real problem with feeling danger while on the saddle is that you can’t just close your eyes, and let it pass.
This year, I made a resolution to ride deeper into the city, to have a first-hand experience of cycling-unfriendly roads. I think I should earn that experience first-hand before writing about it. And once I dare do it, I might indirectly inspire someone else to do the same. If you become a better cyclist, you can be a better driver also. Well I know it is more said than done, but I like to think so.
So, this time I chose to follow the route of my longest ride, to a brief extent within the city. I am aware that the turning point of this route hosts one of the busiest bus stations in India, where the inter-state buses from seven neighbouring states collect and drop off passengers. The road to ISBT (we call it so in Delhi – indicating Inter-State Bus Terminus) is equally challenging, depending on what time of the day you choose to ride.
Here in my case, I started off at 7:00 sharp, though I could have left slightly early. Moving with cat-steps without waking up anyone on a Sunday morning, I got out and hit the road. The best thing about early Summer mornings is that you suddenly feel fresh and charged up once you get on the saddle and feel the cool morning breeze on your hair. I started enjoying the stares of truckers chasing me. They couldn’t pass me on so easily, because I quickly gain speed and manage well even on the broken service-road which has equal number of potholes and speed-breakers). Well, thoughts like these would fuel my ride and help me forget that I have a long way to go, and on my return, I shall be feeling more pain and sweat.
Greater Noida Expressway is a road I love to hate, partly because it gives Noida’s drivers a chance to show-off their poor driving skills with large vehicles and high-speeds. Cyclists like me take the first lane aptly called the Rescue Lane mostly because that is the lane which hosts vehicles that needs to be rescued from the over-speeding divers (I am doubtless here because I haven’t seen any rescue vehicles or police support vehicles anywhere in that lane during my three-year stay here).
Suddenly the phone rings. Since I am pushing headwinds with my limited speed of 25 kilometres an hour, there is no point in stopping by and open the bag to see who is calling. I answered through the head-set, shouting that I am on the road. If something is urgent, message me. Else, I shall call back when I am home. It turned out to be an old friend, picking up a chit-chat. I stopped a short while ago and told him I’m on the road. After the brief talk, I am back on the saddle again.
Looking at the way half-sleepy drivers handle their vehicles in a zig-zag manner between other vehicles, I feel the government should stop wasting money on bullet trains and instead spend money and resources in teaching people how to drive properly. Time to pedal up. DND-Flyway link road approaching, more than half of the swarm of cars that are chasing me would now take a hard left. I stretched out my right hand to indicate that I’m not moving left. Some learned drivers responded by indicating left and slowing down. That made me smile. At least there are some rare people here who follows traffic rules. Good to see that.
As I was about to leave Noida and enter Delhi, I noticed this large green park where people were coming out after their morning walk/ run / yoga and getting into cars. I wonder what they might have earned by this. Driving from home 5 kilometres away just to complete a 2 kilometre walk in the park, are they earning anything meaningful? I see wasted time, parking problems and pollution. Well, that’s Noida. I am getting used to it.
The remaining stretch of road till Red Fort was something I couldn’t forget for a really long time. The morning breeze is light, it would take a few more hours to develop into a proper headwind. I should make the most of the time and fly away as fast as possible. As the day progresses, there would be not just exponentially high traffic, but also a certain strong level of headwinds to deal with. Together, they could spell harm morally and physically. So, it would be best to cover this stretch and return to the relative safety and desolation of Noida’s abandoned bus shelters (that would be subject for another post) before taking a break.
As I reached the perimeters of the ISBT, I had observed that the vehicles – no matter how big or small they are – just brush you away. I was trembling while I almost got sandwiched between two interstate buses. The maximum gap you get would be roughly 10 to 20 centimetres from another vehicle – be it a motorcycle, a car, a bus or a truck. They are passing you at faster speeds, and there is this tendency to get sucked up between their wheels. I was alert and could imagine multiple scenarios of disaster involving my accident in several ways. However, nothing happened. I didn’t slow down, and I am safely back. God is great.
I am trying more to delve deep into the cycling-unfriendly roads inside the city and will collect some stories for you. Have you ever thought how cycling-friendly are your city roads? Do you have similar stories to tell? Let me know.