On the first day of 2014, two youths on motorbikes chased a taxi on Park Street and rescued a woman from a rogue cabbie out to “teach her a lesson” for refusing to pay him Rs 50 extra.
The two bikers led by example and set the tone for the Responsible Riders campaign being launched this weekend by Calcutta Police and Calcutta Walks, in association with The Telegraph and Friends FM, to make Calcutta a safer city.
Around 50 bikers will assemble at Prinsep Ghat at 2pm on Saturday. From there, they will ride through thoroughfares such as Park Circus Connector, AJC Bose Road, Rashbehari Connector, Syed Amir Ali Avenue and Red Road to spread the message.
The journey will culminate at Lalbazar where every rider will, in the presence of senior officers of the traffic department of Calcutta Police, take the Responsible Riders pledge:
• I will always wear a helmet while riding my bike
• I will speak up against eve-teasing
• I will report road accidents to the police
• I will keep the papers of my vehicle in order
• I will always stick to the rules of the road
• I will always be courteous to fellow motorists, pedestrians
• I will not honk unnecessarily
• I will not over-speed
• I will not overtake from the wrong side
• I will not engage in racing
• I will not ride triple
• I will not use the cell phone while riding.
This ritual will be repeated every Saturday afternoon for the next two months, bringing many bikers into the Responsible Riders fold.
“A large section of bikers in Calcutta are safe bikers and ride their two-wheelers with responsibility towards fellow motorists and pedestrians. They feel that they get the raw end of the stick and the image of the entire biking community gets tarnished by a handful of mischief-makers. The Responsible Riders campaign will provide an opportunity to a silent majority to come forward and make themselves heard,” said Soumen Mitra, special commissioner, Calcutta police.
Harassment of women by rogue bikers had reached alarming proportions in July-August 2013 with gangs on the prowl from Jodhpur Park to Park Street. The Telegraph had carried a series of reports on how women were being teased and hounded by bikers.
Police vigil on several thoroughfares was stepped up and the brakes were slammed on these rogue bikers, but stray incidents continued to occur, threatening women and shaming the safe bikers around town.
Now, Responsible Riders aims to give these safe bikers a platform and grow their numbers. “Through the Responsible Riders campaign, we want to ally with one of the stakeholders, the responsible bikers, and through them spread the message of safe biking to those in their peer group who may not be abiding by the rules,” explained Soumen Mitra at Lalbazar.
The inaugural ride of the campaign on Saturday will be kick-started by members of the Eastern Bulls and the Harley Owners Group.
If you are not a member of either of the groups but have a bike and really want to be a part of the inaugural ride, just get references from two members of either the Eastern Bulls or the Harley Owners Group.
For future rides you may apply through www.facebook.com/calcuttawalks. After clearing a small screening, ride in.
“It is important to highlight those riders who believe in following the rule of the law. An aspiring biker will either have to get a recommendation or pass a screening to join the group,” said Iftekhar Ahsan of Calcutta Walks.
What will be your responsibility as a member of this movement? An unwritten buddy code in the biking community is that each ‘good’ biker looks up to the other within the community. So, it will be your responsibility to inspire other bikers in your locality, in your peer group or even at a dhaba that you frequent to catch a cuppa to join and spread the spirit.
So, if you are a biker and want to put your hand up and be counted to make Calcutta a safer city, this is your chance to vroom into action.