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Bikers spread the good word

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Ayesha Halim was walking down the Park Circus seven-point crossing when she spotted a fleet of bikers, all geared up. The MBA student was about to make way for what she thought was a pack of rowdy riders but changed her mind at the last moment.

“I was surprised to see that they were all riding at a very low speed and all the bikers were in a proper line,” Ayesha said. “I was curious and, on taking a closer look, spotted the Responsible Riders slogan on their tees.”

The Responsible Riders campaign, launched by Calcutta police and Calcutta Walks, in association with The Telegraph and Friends FM, on Saturday couldn’t have come at a better time for Ayesha and the likes of her worried about “safety on the streets”.

Faisal Chowdhury, a businessman with a passion for bikes and safe biking, hopes the campaign will instil a sense of security among pedestrians and motorists in the city. “The entire biking community is earning a bad name because of a handful who are unruly,” said Faisal, revving up his Royal Enfield 500 CC. “We have decided to pay them back in their own coin by strongly advocating safe biking. Anybody who does not follow traffic norms will be treated as an outcast.”

Dressed in specially designed Responsible Riders T-shirts and protective gear such as helmets and kneecaps, 56 proud owners of Harleys, Hayabusas, Bullets and other bikes rode into Prinsep Ghat around 2.30pm, with a mission.

“It is a wonderful sight that so many young and not so young riders have responded to our call to make our own city safer. All of you are driven by a unified goal of safe and responsible riding,” said Surajit Kar Purkayastha, the commissioner of Calcutta police, before flagging off the rally.

“Bikers of Calcutta are aware of traffic rules and adhere to them. However there is a minuscule group that does not. We do not want people to behave that way,” the top cop said. “We want these good forces to come to the forefront. Once they set an example, the bad forces will fall into place and join the mainstream.”

Before hitting the road, the bikers took an oath to ride safely, inspire other bikers to follow rules and co-operate with the police to maintain peace and avert any untoward incidents.

Purkayastha urged the bikers to “go out and spread the message of safe driving and following traffic norms”.

The men and the machines rode across busy thoroughfares like the Park Circus connector, Parama, the Ruby crossing, Rashbehari connector, Syed Amir Ali Avenue and Red Road before heading for their final destination — the police headquarters at Lalbazar, where each of them received a certificate of participation from Soumen Mitra, the special commissioner of Calcutta police. Their bonus: a tour of the newly renovated Calcutta police lounge and the traffic control room.

To be a part of the do-gooder group, bikers can download a form from www.facebook.com/Calcuttawalks or get two references from members of the Eastern Bulls or the Harley Owners Group who participated in Saturday’s rally.

Similar rallies will be held every Saturday afternoon for the next two months, bringing more and more bikers into the Responsible Riders fold.