In March 2020, Government of India put in place a bunch of measures like lockdown and shutdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic across the nation. It meant that none could step out of home other unless it was for essential services or for need of essential items.
In those dark days and nights, the only way to beat lockdown was cycling in and around localities where there was no crowd. Group cycling remained suspended, so it was time to adapt for many of us into weekend cycling.
The pandemic has provided fresh impetus to the creation of cycling tourist routes. They are a good bet for the environment and social distancing. One such route is countryside roads without any crowd in the absence of vehicles, along river basins between twin cities Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.
Individually, we became tourists in our own city that had otherwise turned into ghost city during lockdown.
Imagine cycling 100 km without spotting a human being in the midst of nature in those initial days of pandemic. Eighteen months on, that trend is more or less continuing because even though lockdown has been eased, the pandemic is not over yet.
To deal with the pandemic, we at ‘We All Ride Bicycle’ last year launched a few river basin rides to promote outdoor recreation, encourage healthy lifestyle, support community vitality and bolster tourism-related economic development amongst our members. Those circuits have gradually become tourist attractions for many cycling enthusiasts.
The 100 km Green Trail showcases some of Bhubaneswar’s special places, diverse history and iconic landscapes. The Trail welcomes bicyclists of all ages and abilities to experience the river basin ride that includes urban centres, village main streets, rural communities and diverse history of Bhubaneswar-Cuttack twin cities through the Mahanadi Delta, Chandaka Sanctuary, Deras-Jhumuka-Kumarkhunti Lake Valley, Puri Canal, Dhauli Peace Valley, Peacock Valley and Sikharchandi North Valley etc.
Similarly, you can learn by being a tourist in your own city in Dhauli, Khandagiri & Udayagiri, Sikharchandi between 10 natural drains, a vibrant Gangabati river system, Chandaka Dampada sanctuary, a man-made Nandankanan Zoo, Deras & Jhumuka and Kumarkhunti waterbodies, a man-made Daya West Canal, culmination of three religion and India’s first planned capital city.
Cycling is a new opportunity that Odisha Tourism needs to integrate in its expansion plan. Otherwise tourists will keep visiting the state but will hardly celebrate their experiences. It’s like opening of Nimantrana in a 450 sq ft prime location doesn’t guarantee that tourists will visit the place rather than trying other options of authentic Odia food in Bhubaneswar.
Similarly, if Odisha doesn’t offer something inclusive, then tourists have plenty of other options like Delhi, Rajasthan, Kerala etc.
This year, World Tourism Day recognises the benefits of active and sustainable travel. Being physically active on foot or on bicycle can help reduce blood pressure, cholesterol level and weight which can, in turn, help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. All movement can help your mood, reduce stress and improve self-esteem.
Getting active in green or blue space has added mental health benefits. Cycling is one natural medicine that kept people active while following COVID-appropriate behaviour during the pandemic.
So on World Tourism Day, let’s take a pledge for outdoor recreation by cycling as it contributes to better community health and related savings, less congestion, environmental health and happier people.
Yes, bicycle travel is responsible and sustainable tourism.