Indian City Bans Bicycles to Check Bombing Terror
An Indian city, Calcutta (Kolkata), 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, according to a report published in The Telegraph.
“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 in the Telegraph’s report. “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 told the Telegraph. 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.