Kolkata, Nov 25 IANS | 9 months ago

While the western world is embracing cycling as a safe, clean and even a trendy transport mode, Kolkata showed its "regressive side" banning non-motorised vehicles on its thoroughfares. But with the administration now willing to reconsider, residents may again get the opportunity to script their "bicycle diaries".


The city traffic police, which in August issued a notification prohibiting cycles, hand carts, pull-carts, tri-cycles and other forms of non-motorized vehicles from 174 major and minor streets in the city, will now hold a meeting with NGOs Tuesday to explore ways to make the city cyclist-friendly.

"We have called a meeting Tuesday with NGOs and officials concerned to explore ways on trying to make the city cyclist friendly. We have been receiving a lot of complaints against the ban," said Deputy Commissioner (Traffic) Dilip Kumar Adak.

Not surprisingly the ban attracted widespread criticism with activists, environmentalists, NGOs and the common people voicing concern and holding demonstrations against the ban calling it regressive.

Borrowing Mahatama Gandhi's concept of satyagraha, cyclist groups, environmentalists and large numbers of milk and newspaper vendors came out on the streets holding placards and shouting slogans as they launched the 'Chakra Satyagraha'- their endeavour to bring the cycles back on the roads.

Street plays and songs were an integral part of the protests.

Several organisations like Greenpeace, National Alliance of People's Movement - an umbrella body of civil society organisations, and social activists including Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar have all voiced concern over the issue urging the Mamata Banerjee government to withdraw the prohibition.

Apart from adversely affecting those in the milk trade, courier boys and newspaper vendors, the ban has come as a rude shock to over 20,000 cycle van operators who deliver goods across the city.

The international media too took up the matter widely criticising the ban.

While London boasts of "cycle superhighways" and Paris has Velib - a large-scale public bicycle sharing system, city transport administrators came out with the ban ostensibly to "relieve chronic congestion on its overcrowded streets and increase the speed of vehicles".

The reasons for the ban failed to cut ice with the protestors and the union urban development ministry too has now expressed concern over the issue especially when it has been advocating increased share of both public and non-motorised transport through its National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP).

(Posted on 25-11-2013)