Firoza Suresh, an avid cyclist and the first Bicycle Mayor of Mumbai, addressed the concern of working women from the economically backward class in her own way during the lockdown. The second wave of COVID-19 has crippled travel patterns of people, and Firoza stepped in to help women working as house maids, cooks, garbage collecting personnel, administrative jobs in housing societies, etc.
On March 8, when the world celebrated International Women’s Day, Firoza Suresh started her initiative of gifting bicycles to these working women for whom travel is a daily struggle. She started with the K/West ward in Andheri (W), which covers Four Bungalows, Lokhadwala, Oshiwara, DN Nagar and Juhu.
The Smart Commute Foundation bought 50 bicycles for about Rs 10,000 each with financial aid from Corporates and crowdfunding. These bicycles are chosen keeping in mind the needs of the women and their comfort—many wear sarees and salwar-kameez, these bicycles are light weight and easy to handle.
“We identified those women who do not know how to ride bicycles and struggle to reach their housing societies. We also train them on how to ride bicycles during traffic hours on busy roads,” said Firoza.
The training lasts for a week — in some cases even less, and they are supervised by professional cyclists as they ride on Mumbai roads. The initiative giving these women a sense of freedom, as they cycle on the roads rather than walk under the scorching sun.
The cost for the project in each ward is Rs 5 lakh. “We intend to identify 1,150 more such women in other civic wards when the situation gets better,” added Firoza.