The Union Urban Development Ministry has finally recognised the ban on cycles imposed in Kolkata as a contravention of the National Urban Transport Policy, 2006, and decided to take up the issue with the Mamata Banerjee government.
The ban has also left the Ministry embarrassed, given that its aggressive campaign to promote clean modes of transport in cities is under way, and it has asked all States to promote cycling by creating dedicated tracks.
In August, the West Bengal government announced the ban on cycles, hand-carts, pull-carts, tri-cycles and other non-motorised transport in 174 major and minor roads. Following widespread protests from residents and civil society, the Ministry has decided to intervene.
“It is a challenge to provide space for all kinds of transport systems, but banning the modes that are seen as slow moving is not an option. It is necessary to create space for all… modes, especially those which are clean and used by a large section,” said an official of the Ministry.
Moreover, “banning the use of non-motorised modes of transport will have an adverse impact on the weaker sections. Besides, banning a green mode of transport is in violation of the National Urban Transport Policy, 2006, and the National Mission of Sustainable Habitat, both of which give priority to non- motorised transport,” the official said.
The Ministry views the State government’s assertion that taking non-motorised vehicles off the road would allow traffic speed to increase as flawed and insensitive. “At a time when world over cities are making the switch to green modes of transport, a ban on cycles is paradoxical. The State government, along with the local municipal bodies, needs to draft a policy in which the concerns of citizens are addressed and not excluded; also the focus should be on encouraging public transport, not private cars. The government can seek the assistance of the IITs, transport and urban planning bodies to draft a policy to decongest the city without banning cycles,” the official said.