Several cycle groups across the State came together and submitted a “Charter of Demands to promote Cycling” to all political parties contesting for the 2021 Bengal elections to include in their assembly meeting and implementation plan the need for sustainable cycling and cycle safe infrastructure for the State. The demands include removal of cycle restrictions from Kolkata and immediately implement a cycle safe infrastructural plan for the state including Kolkata – for promoting a cost-efficient, safe and an eco-friendly urban commute in the city. In the press conference organized today by a network of all cycle groups across the state at Press Club Kolkata.
Satanjib Gupta , “Bicycle Mayor of Kolkata”, BYCS said – “Cycling ban in Kolkata is hitting hard to our Domestic workers, milkmen, newspaper delivery men, factory employees, delivery boys and other workers, who do not have the luxury of working from home or taking expensive transport every day to work resort to cycling or walking as the sole means of commute”
The presentation made at the press meet pointed out that the National Transport Policy of the State recognises bicycle as the most widely used means of transportation in the State. In fact, many people from peri-urban and neighbouring rural areas like newspaper vendor, milkmen etc. make a living daily by transporting in a bicycle. Many use bi-cycle as the one means of commute to maintain socially distanced traveling in a COVID-19 affected world. Data from several available sources suggest that the bicycle market has boomed in India. Kolkata has a well-developed public transit system which makes it even more relevant for the city to adopt largescale cycling.
The cycle groups – KCS, KCAAJRC, 2 Wheels, Cycos, Cyclops, CNG, Argo and many others who were present at the event said “That everyone can access cycling as an affordable means of commuting and help Kolkata become a cycling-friendly city by safeguarding the rights and interests of pedestrians and cyclists. Several studies have revealed that Kolkata, like any other metropolitan city in India, the growth in motorization in the city has turned the tide against a sustainable urban mobility model and maintaining the air quality of the city. “
Vinay Jaju convenor of Bengal-CAN said that “Leaders , Police etc say that narrow streets of Kolkata are a reason to ban cycles, infact small road space makes the cycle even more relevant. We have to think beyond cars or out cities will be unlivable with the congestion and pollution. Cycles not cars have be at the centre of our urban mobility plan and instead of car parking space and more roads being widened for cars, cycle lanes need to be given priority”
Several first world nations like Europe that have even more narrow roads than Kolkata have already figured out ways of using the existing road capacity more efficiently by encouraging plying of NMTs, cycles and reclaiming road spaces for pedestrians and cyclists’. Besides across the world cycling is considered as sustainable mode of transportation helpful in reducing carbon emissions. Switching from car to bicycle saves 150 g of CO2 per kilometer .Each 7 km by bicycle will save an emission of 1 kilogram of CO2 as compared to the same distance covered by car.
Raghu Jana, Convenor of Kolkata Cycle Samaj said that “After COVID the economy of the State needs a boost. Ordinary people’s income has decreased. Bicycles are the sole transport option for low-income communities who travel daily for work. We are urging the government to take initiative for safe and uninterrupted cycling in Kolkata, encourage cycling and stop fines for cycling.”
A recent research suggested that Kolkata had 29 cities apart from the 7 existing non-attainment cities where the air quality is degrading at a rampant rate. Additionally, a Lancet-ICMR study uncovered that Bengal has 11 times more deaths than COVID-19 in 2019 which cost the economy 2125 million US dollars. The transport sector is a major contributor of gaseous pollutants. NEERI Source Apportionment Study of 2019 revealed that about 30% of winter pollution in Kolkata can be traced from vehicular emissions. Cycles provide an alternate sustainable transport option for millions living in cities like Kolkata where travel distances are short and commuting time in private vehicles are high due to heavy congestion.
Citizens demanded towards :
- Implementation of safe bicycle lanes and Infrastructures
- Promote cycling as a sport with appropriate infrastructures
- Remove all cycling restrictions and ‘No Cycling’ Boards across Kolkata
- Stop fining cyclist except if the break traffic rules
- Set up stands for parking bicycles at railways, metro stations, etc
- Declare one day per month as “Car Free Day”
- Implementation of comprehensive mobility plan with KMDA on cycles, NMT and Public Transport
Political parties contesting for this year’s election have already promised several opportunities for the state’s economically challenged communities. Inclusion of bicycles in the current transport system will not just better livelihood access for marginal communities but will also encourage low emissions commutes and support livelihoods of lacs of people.