Pedalling uphill
Posted on June 8th, 2015

The Island Editorial Courtesy Island

It took months for the new government to wise up to the fact that a substantial decrease in the price of a widely used commodity would invariably lead to an increase in the demand for it. That would have been known to anyone with a nodding acquaintance with rudimentary economics. Now, Minister of Power and Energy Champika Ranawaka is lamenting that fuel consumption has increased drastically due to petroleum price reductions.

The Rajapaksa government savagely exploited the public by keeping the petroleum prices high in spite of an unprecedented slump in world oil prices. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief when the new government slashed the petroleum prices. But, the policymakers should have been able to foresee the adverse impact of that welcome relief measure on the economy and take steps to mitigate it.

The government naively thought the fuel consumption would remain at the pre Jan. 08 level and the price reductions would help boost people’s savings. Nothing of the sort has happened as Minister Ranawaka tells us. The solution, however, is not to jack up fuel prices. Anyway, that is something the government won’t dare do with only weeks to go for a general election.

Minister Ranawaka recently performed a publicity stunt apparently in a bid to encourage the public to cycle and help reduce fuel consumption and environmental pollution. He led a bicycle parade from Battaramulla to the BMICH.

Not many people like to ride bicycle these days. During the April festive season the public road network becomes a massive velodrome with thousands of cyclists taking part in races. But, for the rest of the year only those with a death wish pedal on chaotic highways. Others in their proper senses do not brave ‘supersonic’ container carriers and the contraptions with drug addicts at the wheel—aka private buses. About six or seven persons are killed on Sri Lankan roads daily. Cycling is not worth dying for!

VIPs can cycle without risking life and limb because roads are cleared for them by scores of traffic policemen who dance attendance on them. Ranawaka and others rode past the Borella cemetery on their way to the BMICH. But, if an ordinary cyclist had taken that route during the rush hour he would perhaps have ridden straight to the cemetery—never to return!

If more and more people are to be encouraged to cycle it is imperative that necessary infrastructure be put in place like exclusive lanes and parking slots for cyclists.

Sidewalks had gone walkabout, so to speak, in most parts of the country until a few years ago and the former government, to its credit, took steps to build them in urban areas, especially in and around Colombo. That project needs to be continued. If proper walkways are built preferably with trees providing shade people will take to Shanks’s pony to cover short distances.

Above all, public transport has to be developed if fuel consumption is to be curtailed and congestion reduced significantly. Regrettably, plans to link the city and suburbs with a monorail system, develop the existing railroads, import more rolling stock and augment the SLTB fleet have not been properly implemented. Only some half-hearted attempts have been made all these years.

Meanwhile, there is a growing, healthy trend towards using zero emission vehicles and generating solar energy. Some households are off the grid to all intents and purposes. This is something the government ought to promote by waiving taxes and providing soft loans.

It is heartening to see politicians who usually move about in super luxury vehicles riding bicycles once in a way. But, needless to say there is much more to be done to tackle the problem of ballooning national fuel bill and air pollution.

2 Responses to “Pedalling uphill”

  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    Green Energy : More and more of it is the ONLY way forward for Lanka.

  2. Independent Says:

    YEah YEah GREEN ! But who is the idiot prepares to ride bicycles in Colombo city and die ?

    1. Zero bicycle lanes
    2. Reckless drivers
    3. Congestion – every bicycle need guide wheels fitted due to 0.1 km/h speed
    4. unbearable vehicle smoke
    5. Three wheelers will lose there job ( Champika call the Malli)
    6. Finally, no savings due to those who travel will have to use 1st gear all the way to work.

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