> Islam Road, Central Dkaha
Islam Road, Central Dkaha
Minolta DiMAGE S414
1/350s f/3.6 at 28.2mm iso64
Images are Copyright Brian J. McMorrow 1999-2012
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Syed Saiful Alam
Most trips in Dhaka are short in distance, usually one to five kilometres. These trips are perfect for rickshaws. Rickshaws are a cheap and popular mode of transport over short distances. Rickshaws are safe, environmentally friendly and do not rely on fossil fuels. Rickshaws support a significant portion of the population, not only the pullers, but also their families in the villages, the mechanics who fix the rickshaws, as well as street hawkers who sell foods. From the raw materials to the finished product the rickshaw employs people in some 38 different professions. Action needs to be taken to support the rickshaw instead of further banning it in Dhaka. The combined profits of all rickshaws exceed that of all other passenger transport modes.
We think a new ban on rickshaws will be put into force on some roads in Dhaka very soon. During the last Eid many roads were declared rickshaw free without public support or approval. Banning of rickshaws on major roads increases the transportation costs for commuters. Not only due to longer trips to avoid roads with bans in effect, but also due to actually having to take more expensive forms of transport such as CNG scooters or taxi. The environmental impact of banning rickshaws is obvious because it exchanges a non-motorized form of transport for a motorized form of transport, thus increasing the pollution and harming the environment. Ban on rickshaw harms the most vulnerable in society, mainly the sick, poor, women, children and the elderly; generally those who cannot afford or do not feel comfortable on other forms of public transport. Banning rickshaws also hurts small businesses that rely on them as a cheap and reliable form of transporting their goods. Rickshaws are ideal for urban settings because they can transport a relatively large number of passengers while taking up a small portion of the road. In 1998 the data showed that rickshaws took up 38% of road space while transporting 54% of passengers in Dhaka. The private cars, on the other hand, took up 34% of road space while only transporting 9% of the population (1998 DUTP). This data does not include the parking space on roads that cars take up in Dhaka. If included this would further raise the amount of space taken up by private cars. Every year the rickshaws save Tk 100 billion by not causing environmental damage.
The governments made many efforts to reduce traffic congestion in Dhaka but with no success. Blaming rickshaws for traffic congestion and subsequently banning them from major roads has not had the desired effect. Traffic is still as bad now as it was before the rickshaws were banned on major roads. Rickshaws thus cannot be seen as the major cause of traffic congestion. Instead, one should look towards private cars and private car parking on roads as the major cause of traffic congestion. The space gained by banning rickshaws is often used for private car parking. The current trend in transport planning reduces the mobility of the majority for the convenience of the minority. Please take into consideration who is being hurt and who is being helped.
For a better transport system in Dhaka we need to create a city-wide network of rickshaw lanes. If this is done Dhaka can reduce its fuel usage dramatically as well as its pollution.