By Shibayan Raha:
While people in Poschimbongo were getting ready for the panchayat elections last week, the Kolkata Police was busy in implementing a repressive measure which is hurting the very people which keeps the city of Kolkata moving. In a move, which of course the mainstream media didn’t report, the Kolkata Traffic Police banned cycles from 38 city roads. Reason? Kolkata Traffic Police wants to provide a smooth and uninterrupted movement to motor vehicles. The police issued these ban under an ancient act ‘West Bengal Traffic Regulation Act of 1965’ which gives the traffic police the right to prohibit vehicles on any street. But I guess, even in 1965, most people used to ride cycles to work as they do now.
When cities like Delhi and Bangalore are encouraging cycling and even constructing dedicated cycle lanes, this order in Kolkata doesn’t makes any sense. If we look at the chart below, we can see that only in Kolkata, cycle trips outnumber that of cars. Even in number of accidents, cycles are much lower than any motor vehicles. The public buses and taxis in Kolkata are decades old and they emit poisonous black smokes which we might not even see in cities like Bombay or Bangalore. Successive governments have failed to convert these vehicles into CNG operated ones and even though CNG auto rickshaws ply in the city, their numbers are minuscule. Considering all this, the order to ban cycles during the prime time of the day looks like a bad plot to improve the city as a whole.
The ban affects those people who keeps the city of Kolkata running. The security guards, the milkman who brings us fresh milk, the fish seller who sells fish to people who are daily wage earners, all of them now have to ride with the risk of getting penalized. The Kolkata Traffic Police have also started fining those breaking this ban order in the tune of Rs.100 or confiscating the cycle.
I was shocked when I read about this. I stay in Saltlake which is next to metropolitan bypass, one of the 38 roads when the ban order was placed. Over the years, I have seen people riding their cycles to work and that how even they keep to the side of the road and seldom break any traffic rules. As someone from the online generation, the best I could do now was start a petition asking the DC Traffic to “Withdraw Order Banning Cycles from 38 Kolkata Roads”
There are 345 individuals who feel enraged by this order and have signed this order. In the following days, when the petition reaches 5000, I plan to deliver this petition to the DC Traffic in Kolkata through a public programme and hope that the Traffic Police would be wise enough to take back this repressive measure. Join me in taking back our streets and our right to ride a cycle in the city of joy.