My name is Gopesh Debnath. I am a cyclist by heart and an artist by profession. I teach visual art in government art college, Tripura. I am the founder of “Agartala Cycloholics” an Agartala based Cycling Community. I conduct cycling awareness programs for the public. I regularly commute to work on my bicycle and wish to see many more people do the same. I aim to keep my city, green, clean, free of plastic, pollution and non-communicable disease. I have a keen desire to learn from cyclists around the globe and to adopt innovative ideas in my city Agartala. I have helped several national and international cyclists. I believe in Mahatma Gandhi’s words, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” so I have brought along my wife and 10 year old daughter, who have started commuting by bicycle.
How would you describe your mission?
My mission is to inculcate cycling as culture in my city. I aim to get more people to use the bicycle for their daily commute. I wish to educate people around me about cycling, so that they can make a better choice. I strongly believe in increasing female ridership in my city, especially women who are working as domestic helps, vendors, etc.
What are the obstacles and challenges you’re facing in your city?
✓ Narrow roads and several construction work, as well as heavy traffic makes it difficult for the beginners to navigate through roads
✓ Unavailability of dedicated cycling tracks
✓ Unavailability of skilled mechanics and spare parts in local market
✓ Gender stereotypes, so very few females choose to commute by bicycle
✓ Safety concerns, as nearby rash drivers frighten the cyclists
What are your next steps now that you are the Bicycle Mayor?
✓ Encourage my coworkers and my colleagues to go to work by cycle
✓ Organize small rallies and long tours to showcase the potential cycling has to deal with contemporary social and environmental issues
✓ Associate the administration and social causes such as women’s empowerment, women’s safety, education, healthy lifestyle, etc.
✓ One of the best ways to encourage cycling is to look happy every day at work and show how easy it is to stay fit
What can other cities learn from your city?
The thing other cities can learn from Agartala is that however small or remote a city is, it can aim as high as a metropolitan. It can teach to learn and adopt as well as proactiveness. My city has taken several initiatives in cycling to be ready for the future.