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Make way for cyclists

When all the major cities in the world are going the bicycle way — some even earmarking dedicated tracks for cyclists — to counter environmental pollution, especially climate change, cycling is banned from major roads of the Calcutta.

“Cycling is banned in major thoroughfares of the city for two reasons,” said K. Hari Rajan, the additional commissioner (traffic) of Calcutta police. “To ensure that traffic flow is not disturbed by the mix of fast-moving vehicles and cycles, as Calcutta has no provision for dedicated cycling tracks. There are also security concerns as cycles are often used to plant bombs,” he said.

Environmentalists scoffed at the reasons. “Polluting autorickshaws and buses have a free run in the city but cycles are banned. There should be dedicated tracks for cycling in the city,” said transport environment activist Debashish Bhattacharya.

“If terrorists plant an explosive in a four-wheeler, will the government ban cars on arterial roads?” countered Bhattacharya.

Sometime ago a similar ban on cycles for security reasons in Assam had to be withdrawn under pressure from people.

“Cycle is a poor man’s vehicle. Throughout the day I have to be on the move on a bicycle for my job (he collects blood samples) and I can not afford anything else,” said Sushanta Chakrabarty of Tollygunge.

Most important, the bicycle is eco-friendly. “Bicycles are universally encouraged to counter environmental pollution. Instead of banning cycles, the administration should make arrangements for dedicated cycling paths,” said environmentalist S. M. Ghosh.

The notification issued by the commissioner of police on August 11, 2008, barred bicycles from plying or standing between 9am and 7pm on 38 thoroughfares of the city, which includes Dalhousie, Esplanade area, Chowringhee Road, Park Street, Shakespeare Sarani, Camac Street , Red Road, Chittaranjan Avenue, Asutosh Mukherjee Road, SP Mukherjee Road, Gariahat Road, MG Road and Ballygunge Circular Road.

Environmentalists have urged the government to look at Bangkok and Beijing — not to mention European cities — which have embraced bicycles more in the recent past.

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