The city’s bicycle street has come alive again.
Bicycle stores on Bentinck Street that survived decades of declining sales suddenly received a boost as they witnessed record business in just 10 days. As the government started phasing out lockdown restrictions and workplaces started reopening, most people chose cycles as the safest mode of transport, saving them the risk of contamination on packed buses, trouble of waiting in queues and the pain of shelling out astronomical auto fares. According to an estimate by traffic and transportation planning directorate, 15 lakh people have been out on roads on cycles since June 1.
In fact, the demand for the eco-friendly two-wheelers has been so high that cycle-fitters on Bentinck Street been working round-the-clock in shifts, struggling to keep with delivery commitments. And if anyone asks who these buyers are, the answer is almost everyone, right from KMC conservancy staffers to CESC engineers, from a hawker at Gariahat to an employee at a multinational bank. While 70% of the bicycles being sold are “normal road bikes or comfort hybrids”, 30% are alloy-made ones, fitted with multi-gear or mountain bikes. Among the buyers were IT professionals, bank employees, teachers, doctors and artists, who had also started realizing the health benefits of riding the pollution-free mode of transport, said manager of Modern Cycle Mart. “The craze has been fuelled by the fear of the virus on public transport,” said Anindya Ghosh of Luxmi Cycles Ltd on Waterloo Street. “We are selling on the upper side of double figures on a daily basis. With the government allowing bicycles on several stretches, the demand is likely to exceed supply in coming weeks.”
“The bicycle offered me a rare sense of freedom of movement. I used to travel by AC buses from my Parnasree home to my office in Dalhousie and use my car for weekend trips or visiting friends and families. Parking was a major headache, for which I had stopped driving to work. When lockdown restrictions were eased, I decided to cycle to work. My family was surprised, but I bought a fitness bike costing Rs 18,000,” said Siddhartha Mukherjee, a chartered accountant. “On the road, I realised I was not the only one cycling to work.” Mohammad Mumtaz, a salesperson in a garments store on Lindsay Street, said, “I do not think I can buy a motorbike now, as it will cost a lot. But since it is impossible to travel by buses and Metro has not resumed operations, cycle seems to be the best option. As I wanted a dash of style, I bought an e-cycle, which can run up to 40km on a single charge. It cost me Rs 7,000.”
Environment crusaders are elated with the shift. Ajay Mittal of NGO Kolkata Clean Air said, “A silent revolution is taking place. Pandemic has pushed us to explore the age-old bicycles as a prominent mode of transport for office-goers. Our CM is the biggest champion of bicycles. She has changed the lives of lakhs of girls in Bengal by giving cycles to them. Her decision of doing away with the ban on cycling on roads will change the way people commute to work.” Cycle-enthusiast and environmentalist Vinay Jaju echoed him: “It is a quick decision with a massive impact. Mamata Banerjee undid the wrong of banning bicycles on major roads in the city. Kolkata had a pretty high—11%—of total trips by cycles. People are now environment conscious and they know it leaves zero carbon footprint.”
Source: Times of India