Calcutta, India, a city of 14 million, has banned cyclists from 174 major roads effective August 2013.
K. Hari Rajan, the assistant commissioner (traffic) of Calcutta police, said: “Cycling is banned on major thoroughfares of the city for two reasons: To ensure that traffic flow is not disturbed by the mix of fast-moving vehicles and cycles, as Calcutta has no provision for dedicated cycling lanes. There are also security concerns as bicycles are often used to plant bombs.”
Strangely, India’s National Urban Transport Policy is simultaneously pushing to increase both public and non-motorized transport and promoting bicycles as the fittest means of commute. However, the prevalence of bikes in Calcutta’s rapidly growing population has slowed down commuting times. Average traffic speeds range from 8 mph to 11 mph, while the rest of India averages 13 mph. The government insists there is no “blanket ban” and cyclists are allowed to use alternative routes.
Anamita Roy Chowdhury of the Centre for Science and Environment said the measures are the wrong course of action. Travel trips are an average of four kilometers, and the ban can be avoided with improved safety standards. She said: “Knowing that Calcutta is one of the most polluted cities in the world, the authorities are causing further damage by barring cycles. The city’s share of cycles is more than that of cars. Calcutta should firmly control the increasing numbers of private cars instead.”
According to a Reuter’s article on September 6, 2013, India is trying to curb its fuel consumption. The world’s fourth biggest energy user is considering a 3-5 rupee increase in the price of diesel, which accounts for over 40% of fuel use, as it looks to cut oil costs by nearly $20 billion.
Rising global prices of crude oil and a slide in the rupee have left India facing an oil bill potentially 50% higher than on May 1, 2013.
The government also hopes to raise prices of cooking gas and kerosene, calculating the rupee’s fall has added 350-400 billion rupees to its subsidy bill, which is budgeted at 650 billion for 2013 thru 2014. The Petroleum Conservation Research Association has been asked to report on the potential for curbs to oil consumption.
Overall use of fuel products rose 1.1% between April and July, Oil Secretary Vivek Rae said, with petrol consumption up 11.4%. Since middle-class incomes are too small for many families to afford cars, petrol-fueled motorcycles and scooters are used extensively. The rise in gas and kerosene further affects the lower classes.
According to the EIA, India’s economy grew an average of 6.4% per year from 1990 to 2010, but slowed to 5.5% in 2012. The country hopes to boost its GDP and mend its fuel issue by finalizing an energy deal with Russia. India is looking to finalize a multibillion dollar agreement on liquefied natural gas (LNG) and nuclear power before the respective countries convene at their annual summit on October 21, 2013.
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