Calcutta bans bicycles

Calcutta bans bicycles in an apparent attempt to check bombing terror

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Just when you think you have heard and seen it all and then along comes something like that from a city where bicycles vastly outnumber cars.

Bicycles IndiaAn Indian city, Calcutta (aka Kolkata) to be precise, has banned cyclists from major roads on the grounds that bicycles prove handy for anti-social elements intending to plant bombs. The decision is getting unwelcome reactions from many levels.

“Cycling is banned on major thoroughfares of the city for two reasons,” said K Hari Rajan, the assistant 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 lanes. There are also security concerns as bicycles are often used to plant bombs,” he explained.

Many cities around the world have made policies which promote the switch to the more eco-friendly mode of transport provided by bicycles, hoping to help check increasing environmental pollution. Calcutta’s move in the opposite direction is not getting a positive response from commuters or environmentalists.

“Polluting auto-rickshaws and buses have a free run in the city but bicycles are banned,” said transport environment activist Debashish Bhattacharya. “If terrorists plant an explosive in a four-wheeler, will the government ban cars on arterial roads?”

Another environmentalist, S M Ghosh, said that 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,” Ghosh said.

From another perspective, the vast majority of India’ population depends on bicycles for daily transport. In a nation of 1.2 million where 800,000 live in poverty, cheap, simple, reliable transportation can mean the difference between earning a living and begging for one.

“The bicycle is a poor man’s vehicle. Throughout the day I have to be on the move on a bicycle for my job and I cannot afford anything else,” Sushanta Chakrabarty said. Chakrabarty collects blood samples to earn his livelihood.

Environmentalists have urged the government to look at Bangkok and European cities, which are reaping the benefits of encouraging bicycles as a means of transport.

How any local authority or police department can actually be that stupid beats the hell out of me considering that, as it has already been said, bicycles are probably, aside from walking, the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation and that in a city where bicycles vastly outnumber cars and other modes of transport and where many people cannot afford anything else but a bicycle.

Terrorism seem to be the excuse for everything when the powers-that-be want to ban anything and in this case it is absolutely laughable.

© 2013