Monday, October 21, 2013

'Cycling Prohibited' says Kolkata!

What does a socialist state that is struggling with crowd and pollution and relies heavily on the unorganised sector do to ease traffic problems on its roads? Well, ban the bicycles of course!

The city has barred all bicycles, non-motorized rickshaws, carts and cycle vans from 174 of its roads. This is like an extension of the ban that was imposed on about three dozen of its streets in 2008. Authorities say that this move is aimed at easing traffic flow. To this, i want to say 'pshaw!'

This sounds like a perfect example of how a city can devolve. It encourages something that it can very well do without: vehicles. Rather, it discourages something that the the city can really use to sort out some of its major issues like crowd, pollution and most of all more cars on the road than it can handle: cycles and hand-drawn rickshaws.

And has it really considered the effects of this law on the poor who depend on their cycles for their livelihood? The milkman, the waterman, the rickshaw guy?

What does this say about the city's attitude toward its poor? Most of all, what does it really say about the common sense of the government (read Mamata Banerjee) that passes such laws? 

Moreover, small, cycle-drawn carts are essential in a city like Kolkata. If you have visited the city, you will know why. Many trucks (hell, many cars) can’t navigate its narrow, colonial-era lanes.

As against this, other cities like New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Pune are encouraging more and more people to get on cycles with dedicated bike lanes. But Kolkata doesn't believe in this idea.   

A campaign has been started to convince Commissioner of Police, Traffic Department, Kolkata to lift the ban on cycling on the 38+ major roads. This petition is available here for anyone to sign.

See how Down to Earth covered this story.

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