BENGALURU : Cycling has become the buzz word in Bengaluru, with many professionals who are working from home, getting on saddles to get a change of place. Kolar, Nandi Hills, and the airport and beyond, have become popular cycling spots, where Bengalureans, mounting their cycles on cars, spend a couple of hours exploring the place. But a city resident who was carrying cycles on a car rack found himself being fined by the traffic police on Sunday at Hebbal.
The fine was levied under Section 52 in The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 which penalises motorists for altering their vehicles. The incident has prompted the cycling community which is wondering why such an innocuous issue is being taken up, when other serious matters need to be looked into.
Cyclist Pavithra Parthan, who has been on many cycling tours, both within and outside Karnataka, with cycles on the rack mounted on the car, finds the recent imposition of fine to be unfair. “If there is any such rule or law, I would like to see it in writing and understand the reason behind such laws because I haven’t heard of accidents caused by cars with cycles on racks. Instead, I find vehicles carrying stones, sand and rusted metal rods being extremely dangerous and they still continue to move freely. So why are cyclists being targeted?,” she questions.
Harikrupa Padmanabhan, a cyclist and mother of two, is keen to encourage the next generation to take up this healthy exercise. “We are a minority who are cycling for fitness and to reduce carbon footprint. Lakes and parks don’t permit cyclists in these times of Covid-19. So, there aren’t many traffic-free spaces where we can go. If you look at it, lorries are overloaded, and don’t follow rules. It’s just easy to bully us,” she says.
Dheeraj Subramanian, who co-founded Pedal in Tandem, a cycling and travel company, and a store by the same name, is confident of finding a way around it for the cycling tours he organises beyond the city limits. “It seemed like there was some effort to encourage cycling, but a move like this does not seem practical. A lot of people are not comfortable riding within the city, so they choose to drive out and then get on their cycles. When there are health and environment benefits, I don’t know what’s causing a problem here,” he says.
Just when the economy is showing some green shoots, bicycle mayor Sathya Sankaran, who brought the issue to focus on Twitter, feels this move will hamper cycling businesses. “I’ve never heard about an accident because of cycling racks on cars. When it hasn’t harmed anyone, I don’t know why anyone has to be fined,” he says. In this Covid-19 crisis, a lot of people have been purchasing cycles for recreation. If we don’t encourage them, many will face mental health issues,” he says.
In response to the tweet, IPS officer Bhaskar Rao replied, “Let it be amply clear, carrying cycles on your car doesn’t attract any penalty. It is only rear and top overhang. Protrusion on either sides is an offense as it is lateral overhang and will pose danger to other road users..”
The irony of the situation, cyclists say, is that the government seemingly wants to encourage people to cycle but is not providing options within city limits, especially because of the traffic, limited buses with cycle carrying facilities, and even restriction on cycling in parks and around lakes these days. “So what alternative do we cyclists have?,” Parthan asks.