Naviki interview: Jose George
He runs the Haybren bikestore in Mumbai, India, and he creates public campaigns in order to stimulate cycling. We've asked Jose some questions about the state of cycling in Mumbai and about people's relation to this transport mode in his country.
Naviki: Why should people cycle in a megacity like Mumbai?
Jose George: Just for the reason that cycling is the answer to many of our urban issues like pollution, health, traffic congestion, stress. For Mumbai, a city which has already reached a saturation point and is bursting at its seams, cycling is definitely an alternative.
Which actions and measures do you recommend to local policy and administration to make cycling more attractive?
I think the need of the hour is to control rash car driving and make citizens follow road rules, to remove traffic bottle necks and to provide cycling friendly infrastructure. I strongly feel the government should reduce the import duties on bicycles which is currently very high. I know it is done to promote 'made in India', but bicycles are all about performance and human powered, hence quality matters.
From your perspective as a professional related to bicycle equipment, how does cycling in Mumbai and India currently develop?
Definitely cycling has grown a lot in India in the last seven or eight years. There are a lot more cyclists now and many people are getting interested. But my observation is that only about ten percent of the cycles sold are actually used after three months months. It's more because of wrong purchase and users finding, after some time that their earlier routine, which didn't include cycling, seems to be more interesting. A certain level of awareness has to be created for people to get the right bicycle without being influenced by wrong cycling perceptions and self-doubts. I feel it will make a huge difference if people, when buying a bike, focus on their individual cycling experience. The more you enjoy it the more you will ride.
From many people in Europe and North America we know that in big cities it’s difficult to find the best routes without a bicycle specific route planner. Could route planning for bicycles be a game changer for Mumbai as well?
Yes I feel it will be of great help. As the question from most people is: ‘Where do I cycle and is it going to be safe?’
What was your most exciting cycling experience recently?
My best experience recently was a social experiment ‘The Rushhour Race‘ where we, three cyclists, challenged three commuters in peak hour traffic over a distance of 33km from my store in the outskirts of Mumbai to the business district. We took exactly an hour and the fastest commuter, who took the train, reached 25 minutes after us! Cycling won hands down.
Thank you Jose!
About Jose George
Jose George runs a bikestore in Mumbai named 'Haybren Adventures' since 2008. Before that he was a marine engineer. He is also a certified bike fitter. During the recent ten years he started several initiatives to boost cycling in and around Mumbai.
Interviews with interesting people who have a special relation to cycling.