The cycling community in Goa has derided the forest department for turning away eight Lithuanian cyclists, who had come to Goa to explore the Collem cycling trail recently.
The cyclists were told they could use the jeep service mandatorily to travel inside the sanctuary as cycles were not allowed despite the presence of a dedicated cycling trail in the area that was inaugurated in October 2019.
While the Chief Wildlife Warden Saurabh Kumar said the cyclists were not allowed inside the sanctuary due to the presence of carnivores, the forest guards did not mention this fact to them.
Bryan Soares, a Panjim-based architect, who is one of those individuals responsible for sowing the seeds of cycling in Goa, said the incident involving Lithuanian cyclists is nothing new. "We too have faced this at the hands of the forest department," he stated.
Soares said genuine nature lovers and cyclists are always turned away from entering forests when they do not leave any carbon footprints, while picnickers and others leave their dirty waste trail behind, he rued.
Raghav Gowda, a regular cyclist, who rode the Collem cycling trail some years ago, said, "The incident has sent a wrong message to the cycling community across the world. Goa is billed as a tourism destination, and it has to live up to this mark by developing a pro-tourist culture."
Keith Alvares from Taleigao opined cyclists were as good as pedestrians with zero impact on the environment.
"They should have access to all areas. Also, cyclists and pedestrians need not be charged for access. Tourists are being charged as the cost includes the cost of the jeeps transporting them inside the sanctuary," he added.
Jeziel Zuzarte, a young cyclist from North Goa who commutes to work very often, appeared unhappy because the forest department personnel took a decision on their own not to allow the cyclists to go into the sanctuary. If they knew about wild animals inside the sanctuary, this fact could have been explained to the cyclists, he stated.
Mandrem-based Dr Vishnu Gadekar, who is closely associated with the North Goa Cycling Club, feels it is time the government takes note of this incident and comes up with a policy to allow cyclists to reclaim their rightful space on road and jungle trails.