Bicyclist from India stops in Vancouver on global journey

He is pedaling around world to raise awareness about climate change

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On Friday, he rested. Today, he rides on.

And he’ll continue to ride on — another 11,000 miles.

About two-thirds of the way through a round-the-world bike ride, Avijit Chakraborty stopped in Vancouver, staying at the Guru Ram Dass Sikh Community Temple, where he said he “got breakfast, lunch, dinner and good sleep.”

“He’s very pleased to come here,” said Amarjit Singh, the temple’s head priest.

Chakraborty, 38, left his native Kolkata, India, in October 2009, to raise awareness for sustainable development by visiting schools around the world. While he’s at it, he hopes to break the Guinness Book of World Records mark that eluded him the last time around.

Yes, he’s done this before.

From 1997 to 1999, he biked more than 37,000 miles across 54 countries over 27 months.

That was short of the current world record: In the mid-1970s, the late John Hathaway of Canada biked 39,768 miles around the world in 23 months.

Chakraborty, who is doing most of the trip on a titanium bike he says was a gift from then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush, plans to return to Kolkata, to his wife and 7-year-old daughter, in June or July, at which point he expects to have logged 37,282 miles through 60 countries in 20 months.

Chakraborty, who travels about 80 miles a day, said he stays at temples, police stations, Christian churches or in the tent he totes on the back of his bike.

He has been warmly received at temples he says are “welcoming to any people; anyone, from any community, can stay here.”

Singh said the congregation of the Rose Village temple is made up of about 300 people, mostly from Vancouver and Portland.

As he watched Chakraborty scooting across the nearby pavement in a light rain, he said he hasn’t ridden a bicycle since he was a child. “Biking is very popular in India,” Singh said.

But it’s becoming less popular, he said, as children trade their pedal power for horsepower. “Scooters,” Singh said.

That transformation helped spur Chakraborty’s trip, and the stops he’s made to more than 125 schools to deliver a message aimed at raising awareness of climate change.

“It is so important to protect the environment,” he said.

A GPS device affixed to his handlebars has guided him from London to Hungary, Scotland to Miami, through Canada and south to Vancouver.

He counts Germany among his favorite stops, and said he has enjoyed the “diverse cultures” he has come across in the United States.

Today, he plans to ride through Portland, beginning a stretch of his tour that will take him down the west coast to South America.

Chakraborty said he calls home every couple of days, and charts his progress on a blog whenever possible (http://bicyclearoundtheworld.blogspot.com/). He carries a folder filled with newspaper clippings, proudly showing off a photo of his family that accompanied a story in an Indian publication in Chicago.

Guinness is tracking Chakraborty’s trip; he documents his miles at police stations and sends the logs to editors for review.

He gets tired — “Yes, of course,” he said — but Chakraborty has no “mind” to stop or slow down.

“This time it’s my determination to complete it,” Chakraborty said.