Dozens of cyclists, members of the group ‘Ride 2 Breathe (R2B)’, assembled at Victoria Memorial early on Sunday morning to protest against the decision to ban cycles in the city.
They rode down from all over the city – Rajarhat, Kasba, Sinthee and Alipore – to show their stand against the decision, pointing out the imminent environmental damage if more and more commuters depended on smoke-belching buses and cabs. The worst sufferers of the ban would be vendors and daily-wagers, they said.
Gautam Shroff of R2B pedalled down from Shyambazar to “highlight the plight of every cyclist in the city”. He said: “I hope the government wakes up to the fact that this is an unfavourable move for the city itself. Cycle adds to the city’s well-being. It is not only environment-friendly and reduces traffic but also contributes to the rider’s physical fitness. It’s sad that at a time when the world is promoting cycling, we have to dig up statistics and data to justify our right to ride.”
After assembling at the Victoria Memorial gate, the members pedalled off to the heritage zone – the high court, GPO, Writers’ Buildings and Strand Road. On an average, counting the distance from their residence to the meeting point and thereafter, each member did around 40km, said Shroff.
Nineteen-year-old student Prateek Singh, who is also the editor of an online mountain bike magazine, felt banning cycling in a city was not viable. “First, you urbanize the jungle and then kill all the animals. We ride cycles that are not even battery-operated so there’s zero-toxicity. Kolkata is choking, and if the rest of us take the motor route, we’ll kill off the city faster. It’s a suicide mission”, Prateek said. Shroff added: “Next thing you know, the government may feel too many trees are eating up real estate space.”
Sales tax joint commissioner Saikat Bhadra (50), is a keen cyclist, who travels large distances in a group. “Many from my age-group are hooked on it for fitness. I’ve been to Canning and other places on a cycle. I even know someone who went to Tsangu Lake in Sikkim on a cycle. But I’m more concerned about the thousands who commute by cycle every day. There are no cycle lanes or designated zones for cycling and now it’s going to be banned altogether,” he rued.
Anita Alim Chandani (48), the principal of a Montessori school, shared Bhadra’s concern for the work force. “Why will the authorities stop vendors, drivers and daily-wagers from coming to work every day? We pedal for pleasure, but to them it’s a necessity.” Homemaker Minu Chand, too, voiced her anxiety for those dependent on cycles, as did businessman Gautam Khandelwal. “Why label us criminals?” Khandelwal asked.