• Wednesday, Sep 19, 2018
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Is the high number of motorcycles a burden on Dhaka?

  • Published at 09:23 am September 10th, 2018
Syed Zakir Hossain
Picture taken on Monday, September 10, 2018 Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

About 132,000 motorcycles were registered between 2017 and July 2018 in Dhaka

The number of registered motorcycles is increasing every year in Dhaka. The number skyrocketed in the last one year and a half after ride-sharing services were introduced.

Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) data show the number of registered motorcycles has doubled over the last eight years in the capital.

The number of registered motorcycles in Dhaka stood at 495,000 in July 2018, while it was only 210,000 in 2010. The number has risen significantly since 2017 when ride-sharing services, including Uber and Pathao, were introduced.

About 132,000 motorcycles were registered between 2017 and July 2018 in Dhaka.

Commuters have opted for ride-sharing services as they are available, consume less time and are affordable. They help people avoid the mad scrambles at bus terminals, or coaxing autorickshaw or rickshaw drivers. They are also a source of income for many people.

At least 12 companies, offering ride-sharing services, have entered the market in the last two years. It is estimated that over 70,000 people – including bikers and pillion riders - are engaged with the services.

However, transport sector experts, urban planners, and road safety campaigners say they fear that the rising number of motorcycles will create disorder on the streets and worsen traffic management.

Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh Secretary General Mozammel Haque Chowdhury described motorcyclists as “reckless drivers” who are increasing the risks of accidents on Dhaka’s streets.

“They (motorcycle riders) do not obey the traffic signal or law, and at times, ignore their own safety,” he said.

Many drive without a license but checking license of every single motorcyclist is not easy, he added. BRTA data show that about 60% of the drivers in Bangladesh do not have a license.

Mozammel said the increasing number of motorcycles is also putting pressure on the roads. “For example, 60 bikes can carry 60 passengers, but a bus alone can carry the same number of people. Commuting by the latter can help save fuel and money. It is easy to maintain a bus than 60 bikes,” he said.

Picture taken on Monday, September 10, 2018 | Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Buet urban planning Associate Professor Dr Md Musleh Uddin Hasan suggested controlling the number of motorcycles in Dhaka as they are affecting the transport sector by creating disorder.

Ride-sharing service Pathao now has nearly 30,000 registered riders and its services are available in Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet, Gazipur and Narayanganj. On the other hand, OBHAI has more than 20,000 registered riders in Dhaka and Chittagong, said Quazi Omar Ferdous, COO of OBHAI.

Year-wise motorcycle registration in Dhaka

Year

Registered motorcycle

2010

210,081

2011

34,708

2012

32,810

2013

26,331

2014

32,894

2015

46,764

2016

53,738

2017

75,251

2018

57,631

Grand Total

494,957

Source: BRTA

Buet Accident Research Institute Assistant Professor Kazi Md Shifun Newaz said motorcycles have become the second preferred mode of transport for commuters after public transport in Dhaka.

“Yes, motorbike ride sharing is offering easy and less time-consuming rides. People are losing interest in the public transport as they are inadequate and do not offer quality services,” he said.

The higher number of motorcycles may lead to the failure of the mega projects that the government has taken up to improve the transportation sector, he feared. He explained that if people opt for ride sharing, then projects to improve transportation system may become useless.

He noted that the demand for ride-sharing is high but expressed concerns that more motorcycles are getting involved in accidents because of the drivers’ recklessness.

BRTA Director (road safety) Sheikh Md Mahbub-e-Rabbani told the Dhaka Tribune that higher number of registered bikes is also contributing to an increasing number of traffic law violations.

“They violate traffic laws, do not wear helmets, and also carry two to three passengers in many cases. The ride-sharing services are attracting more bikers every day, most of whom are violating traffic laws,” he said.

Hussain Elius, the co-founder and CEO of Pathao, tried to justify the increasing number of motorcycles, saying they take up a lot less space than other vehicles and because of it, the number of private cars on the streets will not rise exponentially.

“Our city is becoming a concrete jungle - motorcycles are and will remain the most time-saving method of commuting from one place to another. The price of fuel is rising, and hence the cost of travelling in cars is also increasing. The motorcycle will remain a very cheap option to move around,” he said.

He cited the example of Indonesia where motorcycles have been a revolution in public transport.

“As long as we do not have a safe and proper public transport, motorbike ride sharing will save a huge amount of time people spend stuck in traffic, which will, in turn, help our economy,” said Pathao CEO.