Half of the total cases filed during the latest traffic-week drive were against bikers
The numbers of motorcycle users are skyrocketing in Bangladesh, thanks to the ride sharing services.
However, one of the prerequisite for driving a motorbike - holding a valid driver’s licence - has not risen accordingly.
Most motorcyclists not only violate this mandatory provision, but are listed as the top violators of traffic rules.
According to the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), as of July 2018, a total of 2.27 million motorcycles have been registered across the country so far.
However, only 926,000 motorcyclists hold a valid licence, of which 103,000 are professional.
Road safety campaigners say a major share of the motorcycles in the rural areas across Bangladesh are used for commercial purposes, whereas in Dhaka they are mainly used for ride sharing purposes.
“It is true that the number of registered motorbikes is rising across Bangladesh because it is an effective way to commute short distances,” National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways (NCPSRR) General Secretary Ashish Kumar Dey said.
“However, the number of drivers - holding a driver’s licence - is not increasing accordingly.
“Most of the motorcyclists in rural areas take passengers as a means of income, but they remain out of regular monitoring by the law enforcement.”
Quoting Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) officials, who shares information with his organization, he said many of the motorcyclists in rural areas are political activists and cadres who go unpunished.
“If these drivers can be brought under the law, reckless driving will reduce significantly,” he said.
Bangladesh Passenger Welfare Association Secretary General Mozammel Hoque Chowdhury said the number of shared motorcycle services has also risen in Dhaka.
“A lack of public transport makes commuters rent or buy motorcycles as a cheaper alternative source of transport,” he said. “However, people purchase motorbikes without registering for a driver’s licence.”
Mozammel said motorcyclists can easily escape from the hands of the law enforcers since their focus is mainly on other public transport such as buses.
“Motorcycles are used in the rural areas, especially on the highways to transport passengers or other commercial purposes,” he said.
“Motorcyclists do not follow traffic laws leading to many accidents. In most cases, they face minor charges, hence, the safety concerns go unnoticed.”
Mozammel stressed that proper training should be provided to all motorcyclists and only efficient drivers should be eligible for a licence.
Stakeholders pointed out that driving in the wrong lane, on footpaths, and parking anywhere on the road is a common practice of motorcyclists in the city.
Although many motorcyclists were driving without a valid licence earlier, the road safety movement initiated by students has improved the situation.
The students not only monitored motorbikes and asked for the driver’s licence, they also spread awareness on the importance of wearing helmets.
After the students’ movement, the Bangladesh Police also conducted a 10-day-long traffic week to make all drivers comply with the traffic rules.
According to the data provided by Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), a total of 88,293 cases were filed against vehicles for non-compliance of the traffic rules, and almost half of the total cases (43,863 cases) were filed against motorcyclists alone.
Also the different bans imposed by the DMP, government offices, and the High Court remain ignored when it comes to compliance with traffic laws and other instructions to motorcyclists.
The DMP on different occasions has banned driving on the wrong lane, talking over the phone while driving, driving a motorcycle with more than one passenger, and driving without helmets (for both, driver and passenger), but the ban remains unheeded.
On March 5, 2012, the High Court had directed the authorities to stop bikers from using footpaths in the capital to ensure safety of pedestrians. On the other hand, DMP banned riding motorcycle without helmets and carrying two or more passengers.
Also, on August 16, 2018, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) issued a set of directives to make the roads safer, making the use of helmets mandatory by drivers and passengers and carrying not more than one person on a motorbike.
Directives were also given to compel riders to abide by the traffic rules including following traffic signals.
DMP Joint Commissioner (traffic - north) Mosleh Uddin Ahmed acknowledged the fact that motorcyclists violate most of the traffic laws.
He said: “Most cases were against bikers during the recently held traffic week. Most motorcyclists do not obey traffic rules resulting in rising number of accidents. It is easy to bring heavy vehicles or public transports under control, but in the case of motorcycles, it is a bit difficult.”
According to a high-level DMP official, a checkpoint system in 40 points has been introduced with special attention where cases are filed regularly to prevent bikers from breaking traffic rules.
“However, in rural areas motorcyclists driving without a driving licence is common practice leading to accidents and sometimes, deaths,” he said, requesting highway police to pay more attention to the matter.
Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology’s (BUET) Accident Research Institute (ARI) assistant, Prof Kazi Md Shifun Newaz, stressed the need for a three-month-training course from BRTA for motorcyclists in order to help develop their driving skills.
“If the government can make the training program mandatory for the issue of licence, people will not buy motorbikes whenever they can,” he said.
“The drivers could be trained on traffic rules, traffic signals, and other laws and provisions.”