It’s out of style to pedal to city hotspots

CHENNAI: The day after Phoenix market city opened in Velachery, Pradeep Kumar Menon cycled there to check it out. He was stopped at the gate. “The guards told me bicycles were not allowed,” says the IT professional from Medavakkam. “They said there was no place to park it inside the mall and said I could park it on the road. I opted to return home instead.”

An IIT professor, who faced a similar problem at the mall, posted his experience on Facebook. It got more than 4,500 shares and many complaints were posted on the mall’s page. The management allowed them to park in a vacant lot behind the mall. “The lot, however, was more like a dump yard with no safety or lighting whatsoever,” says Pradeep.

The bicycle is no longer used only by the economically backward. Many upwardly mobile persons are taking to it as a non-polluting means of commuting. The cycles, too, have changed. Many cost upwards of 60,000. But, lack of proper infrastructure in the city remains a deterrent. “My wife and I are cycling enthusiasts. I have a Firefox road bike worth 75,000 and she uses a Hercules MTB that cost 40000,” says Balaji Janardhan, an IT consultant from Vadapalani. “We try to commute everywhere on it, but most places have no secure parking facilities. How can we leave such expensive bikes on the road?”

Others like Spencer’s and city centre on RK Salai do not allow bicycles to be parked either. Some provide makeshift arrangements that are far from satisfactory. “We allow bicycles to be parked in a vacant lot behind the mall,” says N Kumar, a guard at express avenue. “That’s where all workers park. A customer coming on bicycle must park it there, but there is no protection. Why do you want to come by bicycle anyway? Take a monthly motorcycle pass and come on a motorbike. It’s cheaper and better!”

Many multiplexes, hotels and other complexes also have such an attitude, says Balaji. “I was turned away from Chandra mall,” he says. “I told them I had tickets for a movie at Fame theatre and I was running late, but they wouldn’t let me park.”

The problem, says Kiruba Shankar, CEO of Business Blogging, is in the attitude. “People are looked down upon for coming on a bicycle,” he says. “Most developers don’t factor in parking for bicycles when building malls. Guards tend to boss over cyclists. I was once barred from entering a star hotel in Nungambakkam because I came on a bicycle.”

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