Yesterday, BDCyclists celebrated their 100th “Bike Friday,” two years after its inception. Over 1,000 cyclists took part.
Starting out from Manik Mia Avenue at 7:30am, they biked for 15km, and arrived at the Ghater Char primary school grounds near Bosilla Bridge, Keraniganj, where more activities took place. These included a solo race, a spoon race, a zigzag race, and a straight-line race - all on bikes.
According to moderator Noor-A-Nazia, the event was a huge success. “We will cherish the memories and hope that we reach the 1000th milestone with everyone’s love & passion towards cycling,” she said.
Into first gear
BDCyclists’ journey began in May 2011, initiated by Mozammel Haque, when a handful of friends started the group, primarily as a hobby. They hoped to gradually promote cycling as an eco-friendly alternative to using motorised vehicles. It expanded rapidly as friends of friends of friends started to join, and a Facebook group was formed.
They organised Bike Fridays, where they would meet at 6am to ride around the city.
Today, BDCyclists are an almost 32,000 strong, rapidly growing community of aspiring and established cyclists who, blind to age, gender or occupation, are united by their drive to bike.
Fitness and fun
For most city dwellers there are very few outlets for fun, except for playing video games, going to cinemas or eating out – none of which are conducive to maintaining health and fitness.
But BDCyclists’ regular events have now given people a healthier and more exciting option. “For our ride on Tuesday night, a lot of people came over right after leaving the office,” one of the moderators Fuad Ahsan Chowdhury said. “We rode 10-15 kilometres to a village, hung out, ate pittha and came back by 10pm.”
BDCyclists have not only provided an adventure outlet, but has also created a sense of community. For jaded city dwellers with their dreary daily routines, cycling has essentially brought back a slice of their childhoods.
In a country where girls are leered at when they are simply walking down the street, it’s truly inspiring that BDCyclists have more than 100 active female members who take ownership of the streets with their male counterparts.
Fahmina Khanam, one of its members, came second in the national women’s bicycle race championship. Tanzin Chowdhury was the first female member of the group to ride 200km in one day. In spite of the rise in female cyclists, WSDs or Women Specific Design bikes, with frame sizes in the range of 13-15in, remain few and far between in Bangladesh.
Yet the indomitable women of BDCyclists have not been held back.
Santa Claus on wheels
The group has a strong philanthropic side, which is manifested in its events, such as 64 Good Acts and Share the Joy ride. The idea behind 64 Good Acts is to give back to the villages where the riders travel, throughout the 64 districts of Bangladesh. Their area of activity last year was Pabna, where they donated rickshaw vans to three poverty-ridden families, bicycles to youngsters and free medicine for 200 kids. The Share the Joy ride happens on Eid days. The riders go to slums and leave gifts for the residents, spreading happiness in the holiday spirit.
BDCyclists prioritises safety in all its events. “Helmets are mandatory for all our rides and kids are not allowed on long treks,” moderator Noor-A-Nazia said.
Bike Fridays: The first three Fridays of every month are Bike Fridays. The event is aimed at cyclists of beginner to moderate skill levels, and starts at 6am from Manik Mia Avenue. The distance covered is usually around 35km.
Critical Mass: On the last Friday of the month, BDCyclists takes part in Critical Mass, an event that takes place in more than 300 cities around the world. Moderator Fuad Ahsan Chowdhury says they are promoting the idea: “A bicycle will bring the whole city within your reach.” It starts at 8am from Manik Mia Avenue, and more than a thousand people participated in the most recent Critical Mass event.
Joshila Saturday: Taking place every Saturday, this event is aimed at expert riders and involves trekking challenging paths like mountainous and technical rides. Expect to see lots of lycra and high visibility gear) The adrenaline pumping starts at 6am from Manik Mia Avenue or Panthapath, and riders bike for a staggering 30-400km.
BDC Nightriders: One Tuesday every month between 8-11pm, the group organizes night rides, which provides an opportunity for those who cannot come on Fridays or Saturdays. The group starts from the city and bikes 20- 30km.
Beginner lessons: BDCyclists also provides free lessons for newbies on Saturday at 7am at Abahani field, with priority given to kids and females.
Annual Grand Race: The group organises a grand annual sponsored race, held last year on 100km of Cox Bazar’s Marine Drive. The first round for this year’s BD Cyclist qualifying race season took place in Uttara with more than 150 participants and over 500 cheering observers.
To join: bdcyclists.com