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Published: 12:21 AM, 04 August 2019

Banning rickshaw without alternate transport!


M S Siddiqui

Dhaka city's traffic system is considered to be one of the most chaotic ones in the world. It is
perhaps the only city of its size without a well-organized, properly scheduled bussystem or any
type of mass rapid transit system.Many study observed that the daily monetary loss to traffic
congestion in Dhaka is more than Tk1000 crore. Some of the 'experts' blame that slow moving
rickshaw is responsible for such loss.

Albert Einstein's famous Theory of Relativity observed that all motions are relative indeed on
the basis of distances. A rocket is fast but an airplane is slow for travelling to moon, A car is
slow and anaeroplane is fast for travelling from Rajshahi from Dhaka.

Those who are commuting regularly between Mirpur and Motijheel are find rickshaw is slow but
a car is fine but a passenger travelling from Baily road to Paltan will find walking is slow buta
rickshaw is faster. Most trips in Dhaka are short in distance, usually one to five kilometers.
Whether a vehicle is considered slow or fast depends on trip distance. Considering the 70% of
trips are of short distance for travelling need, rickshaw cannot be termed as 'slow moving
vehicles (UN ESCAP 1998). These trips are perfect of Rickshaws. Rickshaw is a very common
mode of transport throughout Bangladesh. But rickshaw may creating partial obstacle in moving
other vehicles in the street.

The study of government 'Road User Cost (RUC) 2016-17' mentioned that the registration
information from BRTA, Bangladesh motorized vehicle fleet is increased to 29,84,000 vehicles
in 2016-17 from 7,37,400 in 2004-05. Most of those vehicles are registered for Dhaka city. The
numbers of registered vehicle within both the private and public vehicles category are increased
many fold in 2016-17 than in 2004-05 except for Minibuses where the number is actually
reduced and for large buses the numbers are increased at a much slower rate.

Rickshaw considered to be outdated mode of transport for a populous and fast growing
metropolitan area, comprised about 53.3 percent of total vehicles. As a result, major share of
road space remains occupied by the small capacity vehicles particularly non-motorized vehicles
(70%).

Rickshaws are safe, environmentally friendly and do not rely on fossil fuels. Outside Dhaka,
good numbers of Rickshaws are now operated by electricity charged Batteries which has
increased the operating cost slightly, but offered great ease to the rickshaw drivers and offered
much higher speed than the non-motorized versions.

The government is currently in the process of formulating the second Detailed Area Plan, which
will outline the development of the city and its surrounding areas for the time period of 2016-
2035. Four private companies has prepared the Dhaka Structure Plan 2016-2035 in 2013 with
financial support of ADB.

The study is to prepare a revised and updated strategic plan for Dhaka Metropolitan Region for
the period of 2016-2035, considering the shifting of underlying philosophies of spatial planning,
current situation and future vision of the Dhaka Metropolitan Region (DMR).

The report find that manually operated rickshaw is a prominent mode of transport for Dhaka city.
There are about 5,00,000rickshaws (license or without license) in Dhaka City contributing 37%
of the total trips, and providing jobs to about a million people (in two working shifts). However,
only about 85,000 rickshaws are licensed by the city government.

Many cities, namely Jakarta, Manila, Delhi, Dhaka, etc. have tried to restrain rickshaws on the
grounds of either reducing congestion (smooth flow of motorized traffic) or enhancing the city
image by eliminating traditional modes from the entire city or from certain roads.

Indonesia has banned rickshaws (locally known as becak) from Jakarta during the 1980s.
Manila banned fuel free transport (FFT) initially in the 1950s but some FFT re-emerged in the
1990s. Bangkok banned FFT in 1960 and Karachi in 1962. Jakarta and New Delhi followed suit
and banned FFT during the 1980s. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi also curbed FFT movements in
certain major roads in the 1990s.

The high growth of motorcycles and motorized three-wheelers contributed to unbearable


congestion and air pollution in the cities that banned FFT. The alarming rates of growth of
motorized two or three wheelers have become a cause of serious concerns for the authorities of
almost all FFT-free cities of Asia. Banning FFT from main arterials severs continuity of large
numbers of short trips, which results in a significant increase in journey times, expense, and
sufferings to common people.

Transport alternatives should always deal with cases of trade-offs between total benefits and
costs. However the treatment of FFT in traditional transport appraisal methods has long been a
one-sided affair with complete bias towards motorized transports. Generally the rickshaw trips
are for short distance.

So, instead of restricting rickshaws, if planned properly they may be able to provide feeder
services to the regular public transport. Recently City Corporation has restricted rickshaw in
three major road in Dhaka City for gradually phase out of rickshaw from Dhaka city within 2
years.

But the experience of banning rickshaw is not encouraging in any country. Since the numbers of
short trips are very high, restrictions on FFT on major arterials would split numerous short origin
-destination, thereby severely hampering person-mobility.

A Study on the Impact of Mirpur Demonstration Corridor Project (Gabtoli-Russell Square) by


Human Development Research Centre (HDRC) observed that banning FFT carries other costs,
including higher travel costs for passengers. The evaluation of the Gabtoli-Russell Square FFT
ban on Mirpur road found an average increase in travel costs of at least 10%, as well as serious
economic deprivation of the rickshaw pullers and their families (HDRC 2004).

Rickshaws have become a major headache for city planners. In contrast, The Dhaka Integrated
Transport Study (DITS), a government survey funded by the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP), found that rickshaw fare is almost double in comparison to bus fare for the
same distance. But some19.2 percent passengers use rickshaws as their favorite mode of
transportation while only 9.5 percent travel by buses."

Rickshaws provide safe, comfortable, convenient door-to-door transport, which buses do not. In
terms of fare, the perceived alternative to rickshaws, therefore, is not buses but rather taxis and
CNG baby taxis, both of which are far more expensive than rickshaws.

The recent experiences are not different, Europe and partsof Canada and America, as well as
other parts of the world, intensive effortsare in force to increase the non-motorized modal share
and decrease themotorized modal share.
Unfortunately Dhaka city corporation and law enforcing agencies insist on actingcontrary to
world trends against FFT that favor efficiency, pollution reduction, andsustainability, and instead
are making policies that will only worsencongestion and the suffering of our population. It the
goal is to improve public transport, or morebroadly people's ability to move about in the city, why
not develop alternate mass-transport system and then ban slow moving vehicle.

It is interesting that private cars are in fact the least efficient users of road space and rickshaws
requirefar less space per passenger, and the carrying capacity of roads will actually be
increased if multiple modes are allowed to operate, preferably separated for safety and
convenience.

All the metropolitan cities contemplate to transport 50 percent of commuters with underground
or over head mass rapid transport system.

The authorities of Dhaka should focus on quick completion of on goring mass rapid transport
system. The strategic plan of 2016-35 should revise and implement to improve the road and
parking plan suitable a mage city of Dhaka. This is not only issue of livelihood of rickshaw
pullers but also alternate transport of middle-class city dwellers.

The writer is a legal economist. Email: mssiddiqui2035@gmail.com