Zee Media Bureau
Kolkata: The Mamata Banerjee government`s recent decision to ban cycling on main roads in state capital Kolkata has left thousands of residents in this eastern metropolis seething with anger, reports said on Tuesday.
Not only this, the city police have also barred bikers as well as the popular hand-pulled rickshaw pullers from plying on the main roads.
The government ban has triggered angry protests by cyclists who claim that the government has turned a blind eye toward them as they have been banned from main roads.
While the state government has its own reasons to defend the ban, the police claim that prohibition on bicycles is needed to thwart any potential terror attacks on the city.
State Transport Minister Madan Mitra says, "The average traffic speeds locally are down to 8-11 miles per hour as compared with India`s average of 13 mph (22kmph). It`s a decision to ease the traffic bottlenecks and increase the speed of vehicles"
"It will relieve chronic congestion on its overcrowded streets," says the minister adding, "It`s not a blanket ban. One can ride cycles in lane and by-lanes of the city."
Recently, a group of protestors gathered at the busy Esplanade area and shouted anti-government slogans, "We want cycles back!"
The protestors were seen holding placards that read "Turn off your engine. Kids breathe here!"
Gautam Shroff, a spokesman for the local cycling group said, "Banning cycles in a city like Kolkata does not make any sense. It`s a crazy decision. It`s surprising when many countries are encouraging riding bicycles for the safety of the environment, why authorities have put a ban on them here?"
The police department has seized a large number of bikes and byclys since the ban was imposed by the state government.
Kolkata is home to 14 million people and has lesser number of cars as compared to other metropolitan cities, so the state government`s restriction on cycling is highly likely to be seen as an unpopular measure to curb traffic congestion and thwart terror threats.