Pushar Shah – The Man Who Cycled The WorldPosted On: December 29, 2012 By : AutoLife Team
PHOTOS: PUSHKAR SHAH
I still remember Pushkar Shah’s smile beaming back at me, as I regularly flipped back to the last pages of Wave Magazine a few years ago. Each issue used to have a different picture of him with his cycle in different backgrounds, but with the same toothy smile plastered on his face. Pushkar Shah is the Nepali man who travelled the globe in 11 years trying to spread the message of peace, with nothing but a bicycle and a hundred rupees in his name. A man driven by his own will and grit, he accomplished a feat that many could never even dream of undertaking. Pushkar Shah shares with AutoLife about his life, after the 11-year odyssey around the world and his current involvement with KCC2020.
AL: After completing your epic world tour, what have you been doing?
PS: Nothing much actually, I relax, read through old diaries and stuffs like that.
AL: Tell me about KCC 2020.
PS: Kathmandu Cycle City (KCC) 2020 is the voice raised by the cyclists to ensure that a proper cycling lane is implemented in Kathmandu. But the main motif is to make Kathmandu a cycle friendly city by the year 2020.
According to statistics, there are more people who travel in cycles than in cars or bikes. Yet they are undermined and not given their due rights. Currently, the government has given us hope about a cycling lane being implemented from Maitighar Mandala to Tinkune and KCC 2020 hosted our annual rally on December 1, 2012, to commemorate the notion and make people aware of it. Also, with the notice given by the government to the cyclists, it is necessary to keep urging the government to not forget their commitment because such promise has been made in the past too.
AL: What do you think is the cause behind the government to neglect the voice of the cyclists?
PS: The bitter truth is, the mentality of the people in general. Cyclists have always been perceived as people who are very low on the financial chain of command. People think that it is only the people in the lower strata of the society who ride cycles and for some reason they do not seem to deserve the same notice as other riders on the road. But it should not be forgotten that even rich people are now drifting towards cycling due to health and environmental concerns. The government too seems to be too busy catering to other things, forgoing the fact that cycling is the most used mode of transportation and is still the most dangerous.
Also, Kathmandu works in a very peculiar way. It is the duty of the Metropolitan to plan and build roads. But in reality, it is the contractors that decide on the road construction blueprints and this is where the problem arises.
AL: It would be great to see Kathmandu become a cycle friendly city. But how practical do you think the idea is in terms of Nepal?
PS: It all depends on whether you want to do it or not. And there is plenty of potential. If you look at Chakrapath for instance, the sides of the pitch road have been dedicated to parking lots, unorganized bus stops and vendors selling fruits and cigarettes. Now, if even just a little effort is put in, it is possible to carve out 26kms of cycling lane on each side. That is 52kms of available cycling lane!
Furthermore, cycling is considered to be dangerous in Nepal only due to the lack of proper cycling lanes. It is highly unlikely to be involved in a fatal cycling accident unless a larger vehicle is involved (example car, motorbikes etc).
AL: What is your say on cycling?
PS: Not only does cycling sound good on paper, it also does wonders practically too. There are direct and indirect implications via cycling in the most vital aspects of life: health, economic and environment. Cycling has its obvious benefits on your health so you do not have to waste money on health clubs. Riders/Drives can further save money on monthly fuel bills and vehicle maintenance costs. Lastly, the environmental benefits go without saying.
AL: After all that you did, you still face some sort of criticism. How does that make you feel?
PS: Scepticism was there from day one. Even before I started my journey people were pointing fingers at me. The absurdities of the accusations were preposterous. I was shot during the People’s Revolution of 1990, but I survived. I went on to graduate, but rather than settling down to work, I wanted to see the world. So I decided to embark on my journey and people thought I had lost my mind. But there are always good and bad people in this world. That is just the way it is. Actress Sharmila Malla was one of the good ones. She had bought me the cycle that I travelled the world on.
AL: By the way, do you still ride your world tourer bicycle?
PS: No, it is currently resting in storage. And I don’t plan on selling it either. In fact, I am hoping to give it to Nepal’s Museum for collection.
AL: What else have you been doing for the cycling community? What plans do you have for the future?
PS: I have been constantly trying to spread awareness about the importance of cycling amongst youngsters through rallies in various places like Dolkha, Charikot, Lumbini, Pokhara, Sauraha, etc. People have found their love for cycling through these rallies and that makes me happy. In the future, I plan to see more of my country and ride on the Great Himalayan Trail from West Darchula to East Taplejung.
AL: What message do you have for the readers of AutoLife?
PS: To save the environment, it is not enough to just plant trees. You need to drastically decrease emissions. Pick a day in the week to ride your bike to work and around the city. That would be a good start to a better health, economy and environment.