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Kolkata – Let’s Bring Back Cycles On Road Again

On a hot, sultry afternoon, a barely 20-year-old delivery boy pedalled his way inside our society on his bicycle. He brought me the much-awaited books that I ordered a week ago. As I offered him a glass of water, we had a quick chat.

On a hot, sultry afternoon, a barely 20-year-old delivery boy pedalled his way inside our society on his bicycle. He brought me the much-awaited books that I ordered a week ago. As I offered him a glass of water, we had a quick chat.

“This cycle is keeping us alive, madam,” he said quite dramatically.

Apparently, due to the lockdown, his father lost his job. Therefore, he had taken up the baton to run the family by delivering on his cycle.

“If only cycles were allowed more on road, I would have gotten a wider area to deliver. It would have fetched us more money,” he said with fire in his eyes.

I heard a similar story from a maid in the building who usually comes by cycle to work.

“Earlier I took the bus. But these days the buses are off the road. And this cycle is more hassle-free. But I have to take a longer route through the gullies to avoid the main road,” she once said.

Traditionally, slow-moving vehicles like hand-pulled rickshaw and cycles are banned on major roads in Kolkata.

The above two are just a few of the many who are echoing a similar thought and voicing the need for fewer restrictions on cycles. In the absence of enough public transports or to avoid the crowd during the pandemic, many city dwellers are switching back to the age-old cycles for the ease of commute to their workplace.

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However, the traffic law is making things a little difficult for these cyclists. Cycling is completely restricted or limited between 11 pm and 7 am on 62 roads and flyovers in the city. The reason cited by the government is ‘road safety.’

Undoubtedly, it is the most eco-friendly mode of transportation and a viable solution to free the choked roads in Kolkata. It is also a great cost-effective alternative to tackle the surging fuel costs and a good way to replace a sedentary lifestyle with a healthier way. Despite all the positive aspects, it is often termed as a dangerous vehicle that may put the rider’s life at risk.

The problem is not the cycles, but our system. The current policies in the city are hostile towards cycles and similar non-motorised transports.
To solve the issues and optimise the use of this mode, the state must ensure that non-motorised transport road users are prioritised in street design rather than motorised road users.

There should be more cycle tracks and it should be ensured that the lane is only for the cyclists and not to be used by the other mode of transports, or hawkers! Also, these cycle tracks should be properly lit.

The arbitrary ban is only hampering a more lucid and hazard free movement affecting domestic workers, milkmen, newspaper delivery men, factory workers, and others who cannot use cycles as the only means of transportation.

SwitchON Foundation has taken up the onus to bring back more cycles on the road and has launched a petition on the occasion of the World Bicycle Day, requesting the Transport Minister, Police Personnels, Department of Transport and other associated authorities to make Kolkata cyclable.

The immediate demands are–
• Immediately lift the ban of cycles from major roads.
• Ensure safe cycling campaigns, clear traffic signages etc.
• Identify safe cycling corridors and create a cycle and NMT lanes in the cities
• And lastly, move away from car-centric transportation planning and incentivize cycling by making cyclists feel a part of the system.

If you are on the same page please amplify the cause by signing this petition –
https://www.change.org/bringcyclesbackonkolkataroads

A version of this was earlier published here.

Image source: Image by Valera through Pexels

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About the Author

Sreeparna Sen

Sreeparna Sen, Banker by profession, finds her solace in writing. A Computer Engineer by education, she is a voracious reader. When she is not dealing with the loan documents, you can mostly find her nose read more...

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