Bicycle sales in the city has witnessed a spurt during the coronavirus crisis with commuters looking for a good social distancing means and an alternative to public transport. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has urged the police to give cyclists more access to city roads though
an organisation of bicycle enthusiasts said, their demand for dedicated cycle lanes on major routes was yet to be met.
An official of an organization of cycle enthusiasts told PTI on Monday that several bicycle dealers informed him that there has been a three-fold increase in demand in the last two weeks.
As commuting has become difficult due to inadequate transport facilities, many people are buying bicycles with modern features priced between Rs 8,000-15,000 for long-distance rides, an official of the Kolkata Cycle Samaj said.
"We know of at least 20 such cases in the past one week," he said.
An official of premium bike brand Firefox said, "All the dealers are reporting more than double in sales and the trend is very bullish."
A few dealers in Bentinck street and Waterloo street in central Kolkata also confirmed that there has been a sharp rise in buying premium bikes as bike-to-work has become fashionable and enquiries are pouring in for e-bikes too.
Vikash Shah, owner of Modern Cycle Mart in Sodpur in the northern outskirts of city, said, "Unlike 7-10 bicycles in the range of Rs 6,000- 20,000 being sold in pre-COVID-19 times, we are now selling almost double the number every day since my shop opened from June 1. And the buyers comprise both young and middle-aged ones."
Meanwhile, the Kolkata Cycle Samaj which promotes eco-friendly travel, has demanded dedicated lanes for bicycles on city roads immediately after Kolkata Police issued a notification allowing movement of cycles on city lanes only.
The notification did not mention about using cycles on public thoroughfares and flyovers, the organisation said.
"If the state government does not show much interest, find your own path, trek or cycle the distance (as you wish)," it said in a Facebook post.
Anil Bhowmik, a member of Cycle Samaj and a bicycle enthusiast said, "Not much deveopment has taken place since the Kolkata Police notification. Let the ban on movement of cycles in certain parts be lifted immediately."
Septuagenarian Anup Tapadar said if the government promotes cycling in a pro-active manner, it will also contribute to fighting coronavirus as people will be
exercising more which will boost their immunity.
Another cyclist Lipika Bhattacharya said, "I know of people going for new models or retrofitting old models for commuting after finding the condition of public transport not safe enough for travel."
At times, a person travels over 30 km to reach his workplace, she said.
"Now with the increased number of cyclists on road every day, the government should step in and allow them unhindered movement," she reasoned.
On June 10, a day after the chief minister asked Kolkata Police to allow bicycles in certain public thoroughfares of the city due to paucity of public transport
during unlock 1.0, a notification was issued by the police allowing movement of cycles on lanes and by-lanes.
"However, restrictions will continue on the main arterial roads, flyovers and any other area as notified from time to time," it said.