Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What if cycling was your only choice?

*Click button on bottom right corner of this window to expand slideshow
Slideshow - Portraits of India on Two-Wheels - Images by Gregg Bleakney  
In 2005, I made a choice to go car-free in favor of using a bicycle as my primary source of mobility. And, every time I saddle up I’m 100% thrilled to be living this two-wheeled lifestyle.
But…what if I didn’t have this choice?
I spent 2.5 months on photojournalism assignments in India earlier this year and discovered there are an estimated 300 million Indian people who ride bicycles because they have no other option. I couldn’t help but wonder, “If cycling was NOT something I did by choice, but was designated by the caste I was born into, would I still love it the same?”  
To explore that question, I made 16,000 photos, (most of them portraits) of Indian cyclists: brick makers from the untouchable caste, milk deliverymen, paper delivery boys, homeless children, farmers, mystics, popsicle salesmen, slum dwellers, and more.  
Please enjoy this slideshow of 40 of my favorites…and keep in mind the one thing all of these people have in common—cycling is their only choice.  


  1. I think that cycling as a leisure activity or even a conscious choice against a car would seem ridiculous to most people that don't have the option of using a car.

    We choose to be cyclists and do it because we love it. Some people love cars and get a thrill out of driving.

    I consider myself lucky to live a life wherein I can use my bike 95% of the time, and use a car when I need one.

  2. Bryan - Good comment. I tried to ask as many of these folks as possible if they really liked cycling. The older generation all said yes..."they loved it...they loved the pace of it, they loved that it kept them fit, they loved their quiet early morning commutes and the low cost associated with cycling." However, most young Indians would happily trade their bicycle for one of India's many new brands of cheap motorcycles--if they could afford the $700-$1000 price tag.
    and you're correct...the fact that I traded in my car for a bicycle pretty much confused the heck out of most of these guys...so much so that I felt terrible bringing it up and crossed it off my conversation list after several of them offered to buy me lunch/dinner/etc. because they assumed I was in a financial bind.