The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA) under the central government of India on 10th June, suggested states to do holistic planning and make cities walking and cycling friendly.

The press release read “As cities look to ease the lockdown and provide safe, affordable and equitable modes of transport while ensuring physical social distancing, the need for pedestrianisation of market spaces through walking and cycling friendly cities is of utmost importance. The pandemic COVID-19 presents us with an opportunity to reimagine streets for people”.

The advisory issued by Mr. Durga Shanker Mishra, Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs to all states/cities/municipal corporations recommended “the million plus cities to select at least three market places for pedestrianisation and non-million plus cities to select at least one market area for pedestrianisation in market places”.

As per the directions, “the plans have to be made with a long term and short goals, and consider all stakeholders before it goes on floor. Short term suggestions include quick and temporary interventions such as barricades, road closures for vehicles etc., while in the long term, permanent structures for promoting pedestrianisation can be developed from the learnings of short-term measures”.

For adopting the Pedestrianisation in Market Places, the centre has given 12 guiding principles, which also includes project timelines. The centre has given 6 months time frame (June – November, 2020) to the states for identifying the market places, survey the area, create and implement the plan on pilot basis, assess the outcomes and make necessary amendments.

Earlier on 3rd June, World Bicycle Day, Mr. Harshdeep Singh Puri, Minister of State Housing and Urban Affairs, gave a special message and I quote from his speech …

“The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs is committed to helping cities develop high quality transportation that offer sustainable mobility options to their residents.

These systems should reflect the spirit of India’s National Urban Transport Policy which emphasis the importance of moving people, not vehicles.

I urge all the Smart Cities to work towards achieving this vision of safe and fun cycling for everyone”. (Watch the video for his full speech Cycling: A green means to COVID recovery, his precise speech time 06:40 – 09:37).

On the same day, another news that caught attention of cycling lovers in India was of Atlas Cycles shutting down its factory. Atlas carried a strong legacy ever since the brand began its journey in 1950-51.

By 1965, Atlas had become the country’s largest cycle manufacturer, gradually expanding its business in overseas market and managed to produce 40 lakh bicycles per year.

Unfortunately, the company’s last factory was closed down due to lack of funds; the public notice claimed that the company has run out of finances required to maintain production and pay salaries.

This was about Atlas Cycles on World Bicycle Day.

Now, if I can take you back a little further, on 12th May 2020, Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi in his address to the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) on its 95th Annual Conference said …

“There is no better time for bold decisions and investments to make India a globally competitive supply chain.

Speaking about the government’s plan to make India ‘Self-Reliant’, he urged people to go ‘Vocal For Local’ to help develop local manufacturing and businesses”.

Considering the above, the local player ‘Atlas Cycles’ should have been or should be saved from a permanent shutdown. A company which was already exporting to the world, and adding to the forex reserves of India, needs a financial booster; not just to stay afloat but to grow in scale.

After reading the news of Atlas Cycles, I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister seeking his attention on the situation.

Excerpts of my email

“India stands a chance to become a global supplier of bicycles, electric bicycles and cargo bicycles to the world as ridership is estimated to grow exponentially.

Provided, we infuse capital in the cycling industry and back it up with a strong marketing strategy.

Bicycling must be viewed in a holistic manner as it has many sides to it – local tourism, recreational, competition, commute, livelihood, micro-logistics, touring, events, adventure, mental health and social bonding.

However, to be in the game we must save our cycling industry 1st from collapsing.

The news of 70 year old Atlas company which once stood as a pride to our nation and served local and international markets, shutting down doesn’t help us in making a Atmanirbhar Bharat (Self-Reliant)”.

Side Notes: Citizens can write to the Prime Minster using the Narendra Modi App. The query gets directed to the “Centralized Public Grievance Redress And Monitoring System” and the status of your grievance can be viewed withing 48 hours under normal circumstances.

Cover image: Ryoji Iwata

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Source: edited by Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai


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