We’re on the road at first light. 6:30am is a good time to bike because you beat the heat and the traffic. Mornings are even better because they’re quiet- a scarcity in India. There’s minimal honking and the only people you see are off in the distance taking a dump in a field.
We finish the day by pulling into a town and looking for lunch and a hotel. Sometimes we see other white people and it’s weird, because it’s been a while. We’re in a strange place here because we’re not Indian, but we don’t fit into the typical “tourist” category either.
When we tell other foreigners that we’re biking in India, their face converts from a smile to an expression of pure horror. “Biking?! On THESE ROADS?! How has it been?!?!” They seem a little tentative for our response.
“Actually, it’s been pretty good!” I respond. “The great thing about India is that they share the road with everyone: people, bicycles, motorcycles, rickshaws, cars, buses, trucks, cows- you just have to know you place on the food chain! I actually feel safer biking here than I do in America.”
While training for the trip last summer in the US, it was a normal occurrence to receive angry honks or middle fingers. Occasionally someone would stick their head of their window and yell “GET OFF THE ROAD!” or “GET ON THE SIDEWALK! IT’S NOT SAFE!”
In America, or at least Michigan, the mentality is that “roads are for cars.” Bikes should be on a bike path or the sidewalk. Sidewalks are great if you’re seven years old and learning how to ride a bike. Otherwise, it’s pretty dangerous to pedestrians. Bike paths are an ok solution, but I’ve by far had more close calls with cars pulling out of driveways on bike paths than I have riding on the road.
Over the past 5,000 kilometers we’ve experienced bike paths, bike lanes, bicycle tunnels, small roads, big roads, and some that didn’t seem like roads at all. If you drive by a cyclist biking in the road, please be respectful and slow down, give plenty of space, and you will be rewarded someday for your bicycle karma