Cyclist Jack leenaars from The Netherlands is busy expanding his team of guides who are there to take Delhiites on a different trip to remember, for a modest sum. He offers specialised cycle tours around the city that start at 6: 30 am and are wrapped up before traffic sets in. These tours bring one closer to culture and do a world of good to health, leenaars tells Rama Dwivedi
Explore is the operative word that drives his life and when it comes to connecting with the local culture, cycling is his way to do that. Meet Jack leenaars, a Dutch national who, in 2009, founded Delhi By Cycle, a service that provides cycle tours to those interested. And the journey has been quite rewarding.
Delhi By Cycle is about providing guided bicycle tours in the old town. “Cycling is the best way to connect with and respect local life and if you want an earnest peep into the heart of the city, pedalling is the right way to do so,” leenaars tells you.
With approximately 20 guides and equipped with 85 bicycles, they currently offer five routes covering the most interesting, scenic and historic areas of Old and New Delhi. While Raj tour gives you a glimpse of Paharganj and lutyen’s Delhi on the bicycle, the Nizamuddin tour takes you through the dargah and the southern pockets of Delhi.
Asked to choose his favourite route, Jack was in a fix. “It’s impossible to answer but I can choose my preferences depending on the season. like, this is the best time to take the Yamuna tour though I must say the Nizamuddin tour represents Delhi the most. It traces its history from the 12th century to now. The Shah Jahan and Haveli tours take you through the narrow and congested streets of Old Delhi,” he says.
leenaars has been living in Delhi since 2003 with his wife Noreen and three children. A former South-Asian correspondent for the Dutch daily De Telegraaf, he tells you that he changed his profession from journalism to running guided cycle tours in Delhi because he wanted to pursue his passion. Not denying his Dutch roots, he says that cycling is in his blood. So when it came to starting a business, this was his first choice.
Cycling, he says, “makes you establish a connection with the city. You start feeling and understanding the city in a better way. It also contributes largely to the living conditions of the city.”
In a city like Delhi, where more than 90 lakh vehicles move on the road daily, cycling is not an easy job even for an expert like leenaars.
“Eight out of 12 months in Delhi are suitable for cycling. We just need to encourage the cycling culture, for people don’t show any respect to cyclists in general,” leenaars points out. He plans the tours in the morning at 6 am and concludes them before 10 am just before the streets start becoming active and people resume their day’s work.
leenaars never had trouble in forming a team of guides. “If you are responsible, flexible and have working knowledge about the history of the city then you are most welcome to join this initiative as a guide,” he tells you.
For a trip that starts from Delite Cinema through Turkman Gate, Chawri Bazar and Chandni Chowk, culminating at the banks of the Yamuna river, he charges Rs1,850 per person, a price most are willing to pay.
As for road safety, he has that one under control too. “The tours have two guides leading the group and two at the back. So the team is always followed by an expert at close quarters,” he concludes.