Cycle of life, Illustrated

Cycle of life, Illustrated
By Sridhar Vivan


Recently, a taxi driver hurled abuse at a cyclist when she was patiently waiting for him to move and make way.

The cabbie had suddenly stopped in front of her at a bus stop to pick up passengers where only BMTC buses are allowed to stop. This incident may well have been enough to start a verbal duel in many instances. However, Shilpa Sahua city-based techie and avid cyclist, opted for the creative route to register her protest.

Sahu’s is indeed a novel way to reclaim space for urban cyclists. Now, through her illustrations and caricatures on urban commute, Sahu is creating awareness, giving a voice for many ordinary Bengalureans who feel cheated of their right of way.



She has been pedaling to her workplace for over a decade and has often seen cyclists being pushed to the corner by motorists; their basic rights such as a dedicated cycle lane encroached upon as motorists drive through and park on cycle lanes.

Sahu who regularly cycles to work on Outer Ring Road said she believes imagery speaks louder than words. “I could always use memes. But then, I find drawing much more satisfying as I can depict exactly what I want to convey. It is also an outlet for my artistic self,” she told BM.

Sahu spontaneously decided to draw about cycling one day. “I was cycling one day and an incident occurred. I came back and wanted to tell people. But then I decided to illustrate rather than write about it. People really liked it, and the work got much more attention than usual. Bengaluru bicycle mayor Sathya Sankaran suggested that I do a weekly comic strip. So, I decided to continue with one or two cartoons a week. I realized that this is a space that has no representation in the cartoon world. As a regular commuter cyclist in a city with major traffic issues and someone who is comfortable with drawing (may not be the best artist), I am probably in the best position to draw such instances,” she said.

ORR cycle lane bollards are being systematically uprooted by BMRCL; considered a nuisance by motorists, bollards are often run over by vehicles. Traffic is worst on stretches where there are no cycle lane bollards left

— Shilpi Sahu, techie, cyclist

Although the country has more than 50% of the population owning cycles, Bengaluru makes no space for them. “They are not welcome on the roads. They are not welcome on footpaths. They are certainly not welcome at many government and private workplaces, where cycling attire is considered unacceptable and cycling considered below status.

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A cyclist is the most forgotten person on the road, by the government, town planning and motorized vehicle drivers. I draw using pencil, pen, sketch-pens on paper. I have been commuting by cycle to my workplace for more than a decade. So, I have firsthand riding experience. I draw my inspiration from my cycling experiences while commuting to work”, she added.

Cab driver hurled abuses at me… He had stopped in front of me at a bus stop to pick up passengers where only BMTC buses are allowed to halt

— Shilpi Sahu

Sahu spends an hour per week on her cartoons: “I usually make the drawings on a Friday or during the weekend. These are very simple drawings. I usually have a list of ideas. But most of the drawings are spontaneous and based on my recent experiences. In fact, as a kid, I used to like drawing live portraits of people and sketches of places and things. I didn’t learn art formally, but took it up just to pass time during holidays. Now, I am drawing to create awareness.”

According to that Sahu, many motorists (including cars) think the cycle lane is for them. “Even when they realize the lane is for cyclists, they violate the rules. Often, they bully the cyclists, sometimes physically. I refuse to be bullied and there are many like me who are risking their safety on the roads, even on cycle lanes that are meant to be safe for cyclists. I think we should reclaim public spaces by asserting our presence.”

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