In a move by the government, cyclists are not allowed to ride their cycles on the main roads of the congested metropolis. The protestors gathered at the busy Esplanade area shouting,"We want cycles back!" and 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. Its surprising when many countries are encouraging riding bicycles for the safety of the environment, why authorities have put a ban on them here?"
The local police have barred bikers as well as the famous hand-pulled rickshaw pullers from the main roads here. Some of the bikes have also got seized. Home to 14 million people, Kolkata has lesser number of cars as compared to other metropolitan cities. Most people here use cycles to go to work. For them, it is a harrowing move.
"Police are harassing cycle riders. My cycle was seized a week ago when I was riding to supply milk," said Yogesh Yadav, a milkman.
However, the state transport minister Madan Mitra has his own reasons to defend the directive. " The average traffic speeds locally are down to 8-11 miles per hour (14-18 kilometres 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's not a blanket ban. One can ride cycles in lane and by-lanes of the city," he said.