Pune: The Rise, Fall, and Potential Resurgence of India’s City of Cycles

A bicycle with the text, "What happened to India

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Pune, a bustling city in the Indian state of Maharashtra, has long been known as the “City of Cycles.” With its flat terrain, educational hubs, and an extensive industrial background, cycling once thrived here as a way of life for many.

However, the landscape has shifted. Rapid urbanization and increased motorization have put the city’s reputation as a haven for cyclists under threat. 

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into Pune‘s cycling history, explore the challenges it faces today, and look at efforts to revive this once-flourishing culture. Whether you’re a cycling enthusiast or just curious about urban transportation trends, stay tuned for an insightful journey through the rise, fall, and potential resurgence of India’s “City of Cycles.”

A card of India showing the city of Pune

How Pune Became the City of Cycles

Pune’s love affair with the bicycle dates back to simpler times. Residents took to cycling for a variety of reasons, but the convenience was a major factor. The city’s relatively flat terrain made cycling a natural choice for many, providing an easy and efficient mode of transport.

With numerous colleges, universities, and research institutions, Pune has always been a magnet for students. And for a long time, these students pedaled their way through campuses and city streets alike. Bicycles were as much a part of the student lifestyle as textbooks and exams.

Pune University Main Buildin

The cycle didn’t just end on the roads; it extended to the industries as well. Pune has been a hub for manufacturing, including that of bicycles and bicycle parts. This not only made cycles readily available but also affordable, further embedding them into the city’s social fabric.

If you lived in Pune during the peak of its “City of Cycles” era, you might remember the buzz of cycling clubs and early morning cycling groups. Weekends often saw cycling enthusiasts embarking on group rides, exploring city lanes or venturing into the countryside. The bicycle was more than just a mode of transport; it was a social catalyst that brought communities together.

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Pune’s Cycling Culture: The Dismounting Phase

However, as Pune’s population exploded and the cityscape expanded, more and more motorized vehicles took to the roads. The city that once thrived on the simplicity of cycling started to feel the stress of increased cars and motorcycles. This led to a gradual shift away from bicycles, as they were seen as slower and less convenient in a fast-paced world.

One of the ironic twists of fate for Pune’s “City of Cycles” reputation was the deteriorating air quality due to increased vehicular emissions. What was once an eco-friendly way to travel became less appealing as pollution levels rose, making outdoor activities like cycling less attractive and, in some cases, hazardous to health.

The surge in motorized transport not only polluted the air but also led to heavy traffic congestion. Navigating through congested roads became a perilous task for cyclists. The absence of dedicated cycling lanes added to the risk, pushing many to abandon cycling for safer, though less sustainable, modes of transport.

A picture of Pune with air polution

Even as the world started to acknowledge the benefits of cycling—both for health and the environment—Pune lagged in providing the necessary infrastructure. Cyclists had to vie for space on busy roads, and secure parking spots for bicycles were hard to find. Without dedicated cycling lanes or proper bicycle storage facilities, even the most ardent cyclists found it challenging to continue their passion.

The advent of app-based transportation services like Uber and Ola offered a convenient alternative to both public transport and personal vehicles. This further enticed people away from cycling, as ride-hailing services provided a comfortable and hassle-free commuting option at the tap of a button.

But, could Pune about to make a comeback as India’s “City of Cycles”?

ALSO READ: 5 Cities That Proved Anywhere Can Become Bike-Friendly

Can Pune Reclaim its City of Cycles Title?

In recent years, local government and civic bodies have started acknowledging the need to revive Pune’s cycling culture. Events like cycling marathons, awareness campaigns, and ‘Car-Free Days’ have been organized to encourage people to get back on their bicycles. These initiatives aim to remind residents of the joys and benefits of cycling, both for individual health and community well-being.

One of the most promising signs of a cycling revival in Pune is the advent of public bike-sharing programs. These systems offer an affordable and convenient option for short commutes, requiring just a smartphone app to unlock and rent a bicycle. Such programs aim to reintegrate cycling into daily life and make it accessible to a broader segment of the population.

Bicycle sharing in Pune

The heart of any culture is its community, and Pune is no different. Grassroots organizations and cycling clubs are sprouting up, providing platforms for enthusiasts to share tips, plan rides, and advocate for better cycling infrastructure. These communities are not just helping to keep the spirit of cycling alive but are also influencing public opinion and policy.

Though still in nascent stages, there are discussions and plans for improving cycling infrastructure in Pune. Ideas like dedicated cycling lanes, better signage, and secure bicycle parking facilities are being considered. While the pace of implementation is slow, the intent marks a positive step toward making Pune a safer and more inviting city for cyclists.

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The Road Ahead: Cycling in Pune in the 21st Century

The global trend towards sustainability and eco-friendly living presents an opportune moment for Pune to make a cycling comeback. As awareness grows about the environmental and health benefits of cycling, the city has a chance to reclaim its “City of Cycles” title by taking definitive actions that encourage this mode of transport.

While the opportunity exists, it’s not without hurdles. The rapid pace of urban development, lingering air quality issues, and ingrained lifestyle choices pose significant challenges. These must be addressed strategically and collectively by both the community and government agencies to facilitate a cycling renaissance.


For Pune to fully embrace its cycling potential, a collaborative effort is needed. The community can be the voice advocating for change, while the government has the resources to implement it. From policy changes to infrastructure development, the roles are distinct but intertwined. Both parties must come together to create an environment where cycling is not just possible but is the preferred choice.

ALSO READ: Car-Free Cities Around the World: 12 Great Urban Examples

Pune: India’s City of Cycles

Pune’s history as the “City of Cycles” is both nostalgic and instructive. While modern challenges have shifted the transportation landscape, the wheels of change are turning once more. Community initiatives, government support, and an increased awareness of the benefits of cycling are fueling hopes for a revival.

It will take concerted efforts and strategic changes to bring cycling back to its former glory in Pune. However, as we’ve seen, the potential exists, and the path to becoming a cycling city once again is laid out before us. Now, it’s up to the residents and policymakers of Pune to pedal their way back to being the true “City of Cycles.”

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