Esther Elias ﬁnds that the decade-old rent-a-bicycle culture in Kochi faces smooth patches as well as pot holes
About 10 years ago, Mikko Zenger, a journalist and tourist from Finland visited Kerala and met A. Mohamad Ali at his antique and handicraft shop just by the Customs Jetty in Fort Kochi. They became friends over time and before Mikko left, he gifted Ali a cycle that he had brought with him. A photograph of Mikko and Ali hangs off the dusty sunlit wall of Adams Handicrafts even today. That was the beginning of Ali’s side endeavour —‘Rent-a-bicycle’ — a trend that spread across the city’s tourist hubs and has survived a decade now.
Pollution free transport
Opposite Santa Cruz Basilica, Fort Kochi, Victor Benson has run his tourism agency and internet cafe, with stacks of cycles for rent piled outside, for as long as Ali has. “We began this rather cautiously at first, to see how tourists would take to it. Soon we realised that cycle safaris were popular abroad, so European and American tourists preferred to go around Kochi this way too,” says Victor. Tourists were free to explore the city at the pace they chose; they didn’t have to haggle with taxi drivers or bother with public transport. “This was a pollution-free, and exercise-included answer to their travel problems.”
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