Raj Janagam has a simple solution to the world's car-clogged streets and the pollution that hangs over many cities like a pot lid: Ride a bike.
In 2009, he founded Cycle Chalao!, a Mumbai-based bike-sharing program that rents bicycles to members at affordable rates. He saw it as a cheap, clean, convenient solution to Mumbai's traffic problems, which are as pressing as any in the world. Now other cities outside India are adopting the idea. As the world population approaches 7 billion, Mr. Janagam sees bike-sharing playing a critical role in sustainable growth.
"We need to move toward cleaner and greener modes of transport in everyday life," he says.
Janagam's idea sprang from a bit of serendipity. Years ago, he was having trouble hailing an autorickshaw in teeming Mumbai when a driver offered a suggestion. "He said, 'Son, if you wish to reach your college so fast, why not try a bicycle instead?' " recalls Janagam.
Today, Cycle Chalao! members pay the equivalent of about $3 to $6 a month to rent a bicycle from one of its stands. The business has grown from 33 users the first month to 750 today. Janagam hopes to open 3,000 bicycle stands in at least five Indian cities by 2016.
He's also urging the Indian government to establish bike-friendly infrastructure – and has already won some allies. India's vice president, Hamid Ansari, joined team Chalao for a ride in December to encourage Indians to take up cycling. "We believe that everyone can be a part of the change," says Janagam.
– Husna Haq
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