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Cycling And Transport Caste System In India #CyKol

The British ruled India for decades. For all the ways they exploited us, there’s something good which came out of it. They exposed our society to the education and thought of the Western countries. As a result the caste system which prevailed in India for centuries was looked at in a different light. Many of our intelligentsia took a stand against the unfair practice of discriminating among people on the basis of their birth, appearance and other unfair criteria of declaring one inferior to another by shallow standards.

The caste system may have faded, but there is an unspoken caste system prevailing on our roads. Here’s a subjective look at what the ranking order looks like, on the basis of respect awarded to and awe inspired by the vehicle. Strictly based on opinion, and not facts

It looks something like this:

1. Cars enjoy top billing in terms of status. They are fast and sleek.
2. Trucks follow close behind as they can just ram any other vehicle around. So their space must be respected.
3. A close race between autorickshaws and buses. Autos win as they make their own road, going against one way streets, on footpaths, even across and through other vehicles sometimes.
4. Buses enjoy respect on roads, they are the Grim Reaper’s personal instrument on Indian roads. Yamraaj’s Bull.
5. Unique to Kolkata today, trams, hold their own on the roads as they have their own personal tracks to run on. They don’t budge off it.
6. Motorcycles are the penultimate item on the list. They are fast, furious and fall hard because of their speed.
7. Cycles are the least expensive means of transport around. And as such are not usually seen as a status symbol.


Here’s the thing though. There’s a lot of discrimination among all the categories of vehicles mentioned above, across similar categories. You have luxary cars and you have budget cars. And the driver of one may feel an inferiority complex when next to the other. There is a sort of caste system which prevails.

Not only are cycles seen on the low peg, the other vehicles also have caste differences between others of their kind. Here’s a look at the caste system among these vehicles:

Notice how cycles are conspicuous by their absence on the above chart. That’s because cyclists enjoy a camaraderie with each other that is unlike that among any other vehicles. Cyclists are the most civil people on our roads most of the time. They defer to each other and are eager to help each other out. There is no discrimination among cyclists as mostly all the cycles are almost alike. Unless you have an elite bike designed for specific riding such as a downhill bike or a bike for racing.
Cyclists don’t take up much space on the roads. They don’t ram other vehicles, they don’t over-speed.  They don’t overtake rashly. They don’t murder other motorists often.

Of course, there are some bad apples everyewhere. There are reckless cyclists around as well. However cycles by their very nature keep rash behavior in check and limit unwanted behavior on roads. Here’s how:

Not ramming other vehicles, as you will be rammed off, by virtue of you being so light.
No rash speeding, as you will be out of breath by pedaling hard.
No hit and run, if you hit you won’t be in a condition to run.
No drunk driving, can you really ride a cycle when drunk?
No parking in ‘No Parking’ zones. What will you chain your cycle to? And it’s easy to tow away.
No driving on the wrong side of the road. You will be rammed off.
No listening to loud music on the speakers. What speakers? Its a cycle! And earphones usually fall off while riding.


The vehicles are judged on the basis of their make, and not their use. The ones with a high construction cost are seen as superior to the others. Irrespective of how they are used. Much like the caste system where a person is judged not by what they do, but by where they come from. A cycle is the least expensive machine of transport in the list above, and its worth is often equated with its production cost. That is an absurd notion.

In Kolkata, for one day, cycles will emerge on the forefront on the roads. The Avon India Cyclothon- Kolkata 2012 will be held on 18 March. Details below:

Email (General): info@indiacyclothon.com
Email (For Corporates): corp@indiacyclothon.com
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/indiacyclothon
Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/indiacyclothon
SMS Short Code – CYCLO – 51818

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