Meet Arshel Akhter – Bicycle Mayor of Guwahati

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Meet Arshel Akhter – Bicycle Mayor of Guwahati

Nehal Jain | April 28, 2018 17:47 hrs

Arshel Akhter, an avid cyclist based in the city, has been appointed the ‘Bicycle Mayor’ of Guwahati by BYCS (pronounced as ‘bikes’), an NGO based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, the cycling capital of the world.

Born and brought up in Guwahati, Arshel did his schooling from Guwahati Public School before pursuing graduation in Arts from B Barooah College. He then went on to study DOEACC A Level course which is equivalent to an Advanced Diploma in Computer Applications and got into software development for a couple of years. He then turned into a banker but after switching a few jobs in the banking industry, Arshel left the sector and decided to start his own business. After leaving three failed ventures behind, Arshel now invests and trades in shares for a living.

Arshel has been cycling recreationally since 2016. Back then, he joined a group of cyclists called the Guwahati Cycling Community (GCC), the largest cycling group of northeast India. Among its members are teenagers as well as senior citizens from various walks of life – while some are students, others are doctors, engineers, bureaucrats, lawyers, government and corporate employees and individual businessmen.

“I started cycling to explore the areas around Guwahati, going on different trails. Later on, as I met a lot of cyclists - people from different walks of life - I became more active in the cycling scene. I became part of a cycling group called Guwahati Cycling Community and also formed smaller riding groups,” Arshel recalled.

Arshel joined a small group called the Guwahati Cycle Tour (GCT), formed by a group of four like-minded friends that has now grown to an 18-member group over the past one year. GCT had organized their first event - Freedom Ride'17 on 15th August 2017 to celebrate Independence Day. The event was one of the biggest cycling rallies in the region, witnessing participation of over 200 cyclists from Guwahati and other parts of Assam. The free ride covered a distance of 28 kms. Almost all the organizations and business establishments working in the cycling sphere in the city worked with GCT to make it a successful event.

Arshel noticed that there is a different section of people who’re interested in bicycle races and formed ‘Wheelion’ – a 9-member group that conducts small endurance races.  Its sole function and area of interest is to organise long and short distance cycling competitions and promote cycling as a sport.

Apart from all these, Arshel’s pet project is 'Pedal for a Change'. Its aim is to promote all kinds of cyclists and cycling activities especially in Guwahati and the region in general. Speaking about Pedal for a Change, Arshel told G Plus, “I decided to write more about cycling and share the knowledge I had gained about cycles, their parts and nutrition for cyclists. So I decided to share my knowledge through my Facebook initiative called Paddle for a Change. Every Tuesday, I write about different routes and on Thursdays, I feature active cyclists from Guwahati. Apart from that, I feature female cyclists and cyclists from outside Guwahati. Once a month, I also feature one person who commutes on cycle.”

Earlier, Arshel would try going to schools to encourage youngsters to start cycling — “But I never really got a chance. I had no certification and that would not sit well with the school authorities,” he said. In January 2018, when Arshel got to know about BYCS and their global vision of 50 by 30 (50% commuting to be done by Cycles by end of 2030 in all cities) initiative, he decided to contact them. “This is an honorary position — I am not getting paid for it. I applied because I felt that this would legitimize my goal,” says Akhter.

Arshel has been promoting the habit and benefits of cycling among the citizens of Guwahati and elsewhere in the state. His mission is to make Guwahati one of the most bicycle loving cities in the world. As bicycle mayor, he will be focusing on 3 core areas - to promote cycling among young children, to promote cycling as a preferred mode of transportation for people whose work or education centre is within 5 kms distance and to help prepare an online repository of cyclists in Guwahati which will be maintained by the local authorities.

As the bicycle mayor of the city, Arshel has a message for Guwahatians, “I wish that the public starts to believe in the concept of ‘Sharing the Road’ and realise that everyone using the road has equal rights over it, regardless of the size or speed of the vehicle.”

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