Kolkata Traffic Police has passed an order banning cycles from 174 thoroughfares in the city. Multiple ‘Cycles Prohibited’ signs are now dotted around these 174 (in 2008 it was 38+) roadways reserved for motorists, leaving Kolkata’s cyclists (cycles, cycle vans, handcarts, pull-carts and bakery vans) with no other option than to take the long way.
Banning cycles from the road will make the life of the common man difficult. Presently around 2.5 million cycle trips are made daily in Kolkata itself. Most of the people who ride cycles to work are daily wage earners as well as people who can't afford even public transport. An article by DownToEarth mentions a visit too busy traffic intersections in Kolkata — "...Ruby, Ballygunje Phari or Moulali — and points out that the number of cyclists has not reduced since the police commissioner’s notification, but their attitude has changed. Before approaching the traffic signals on no-cycle roads, they get off and walk with their cycles, sheepishly, like petty criminals trying to slip through as to avoid the consequences of paying a fine of Rs. 100 or getting their bike confiscated."
According to the Scientific and Environmental Research Institute, Kolkata is the most polluted metropolitan city in the country. Cycling is the green transport alternative which helps fight multiple issues like obesity and global warming; bicycles are inexpensive; and take up much less space. Such a ban is socially non-inclusive, inequitable and environmentally hazardous. Cycling is good exercise and increases blood circulation and it helps burn calories at about 70 per hour on an average. Pedalling involves low impact action and takes the weight of the body, it is useful for those who cannot do high-impact sports that affect their joints.
There have been series of campaign against the ban by Switch ON and Greenpeace. Currently these campaigns require volunteers, lawyers, researchers and partners.
You can get in touch with Switch ON by dropping an email at ek(at)switchon.org.in or call at 09331118105.
More than 6000 people have already called for the recent order banning bicycles on the streets of Kolkata to be withdrawn but more support is welcome and is, in fact, needed.
On 8 September, the GreenpeaceX team along with Switch ON and Ride to Breathe are organising Cycle Satyagraha, a demonstration against the ban in Kolkata.
The details of the demo are below:
- When: 8:30 am, Sunday 8th September
- Where: Victoria House, Chowringhee Square
GreenpeaceX is also calling for people to sign its petition asking the Kolkata Commissioner of Police to withdraw the order. You can sign the petition here.
Please join hands in support and demand the right to which we are entitled.
Author: Ajay Pal Singh Chabba/ RESET editorial
Follow Ajay Pal Singh Chabba on Twitter @AjaySinghChabba