A group of Kolkatans hand-delivered letters to various political parties contesting the upcoming civic polls urging them to speak in favour of allowing cycling in the city.
Cycling has been banned on 62 roads of Kolkatans, either for 24 hours or for most of the day, since February 2014, when the then police commissioner notified the ban.
A notification issued recently takes the number of roads and flyovers with the restriction to 69.
In their letter to political parties, the cycling advocates said a ban was no solution.
“The letters were handed to the Trinamul Congress, CPM, CPI, Congress and the BJP, among other parties,” said Gargi Maitra, an official of the Switch On Foundation, an NGO that works in the field of sustainable mobility.
The letter, signed by many cycling enthusiasts and advocates, was sent by the foundation.
Since 2014, the police have prosecuted cyclists or deflated tyres of bicycles if they are found on these roads. Prosecution was kept on hold last year and the early part of this year because cycling had emerged as among the safest modes of transport amid the raging pandemic.
But action against cyclists has since resumed, cycling advocates and traffic police officers said.
“We observed with anguish that far from taking appropriate steps for cycle lanes, Kolkata Police instead issued fresh notices to re-inforce cycling bans on the city’s roads. This announcement by Kolkata Police has left us hopeless,” the letter read.
“The number of bicycle commuters in Kolkata is significant and increasing. A large section of the low-income group depends on the bicycle to maintain their families. We hope that your party and your candidates will think over this problem, and voice the concerns of our fellow citizens appropriately.”
Some advocates of cycling admitted that the removal of the ban would not happen in a day, but they vowed to carry on the battle against the ban.
The advocates said they also knew there were problems in managing traffic in Kolkata, but prohibiting cycling will not bring any solution. Rather, the police and other departments of the state government should plan a solution.
“We want the candidates and the political parties to address these issues. For long this has been pushed away from discussion. Kolkata Municipal Corporation election is the ideal place to raise the demand since the ban is a local issue of Calcutta and councillors are the people’s representatives who are nearest to common people,” said Satanjib Gupta, the bicycle mayor of Kolkata, an honorary title given by BYCS, a Netherlands-headquartered organisation promoting cycling across the globe.
Gupta is a signatory of the letter.