Senior urban planner Khondaker M Ansar Hossain said banning rickshaws is not a solution to the traffic congestion in Dhaka
Both city corporations of Dhaka have decided to ban rickshaws on three major routes in the capital, with plans to further limit three-wheelers when Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Line-6 starts operating.
The ban is expected to come into effect Sundayon the following major thoroughfares: Progoti Sarani from Kuril to Sayedabad via Rampura and Khilgaon; Mirpur Road from Gabtoli to Azimpur; and Elephant Road from Science Laboratory to Shahbagh.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, Khandakar Rakibur Rahman, executive director of Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA), said: "We will ban rickshaws and replace them with bus service as the main mode of transport on these major routes. In the past, the authorities did not ban rickshaws taking into consideration the plight of rickshaw-pullers, but this time we will ban all unauthorized rickshaws."
The DTCA executive director added that they would ban rickshaws from more roads in the city once the metrorail starts operating. "We are closely monitoring the city's growing traffic congestion problem, and will take further decisions to address this after discussing with all stakeholders."
Around 58,000 licensed rickshaws are currently operating on the streets of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC). The Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) says licensed rickshaws and vans were estimated to be 28,830 and 2,000 respectively, when the Dhaka City Corporation was split into two in November 2011.
However, DNCC authorities do not have a revised and updated figure for the number of rickshaws on the streets Sunday.
'Banning rickshaws not a solution'
Senior urban planner Khondaker M Ansar Hossain said banning rickshaws is not a solution to the traffic congestion in Dhaka.
He explained: "Dhaka's transport system is complex. For example, many flyovers have been constructed and are operating in Dhaka, but traffic congestion has not been reduced. To reduce traffic congestion, we need a comprehensive plan where urban planners are involved."
A World Bank article published on July 14, 2014, said out of about a total of 21 million trips generated in the Dhaka metropolitan area every day, only 5% are by private cars which take up roughly 80% of road space and are the main cause of traffic congestion.
Yet, only 28% of all trips are by buses which only use about 5% of the road space. 58% of all trips are made walking, bicycling, or riding on rickshaws, also called non-motorized transport modes (NMT), the article stated.
But these NMT modes barely get proper allocation of road space. There are no dedicated bicycle or rickshaw lanes on any roads in Dhaka. Significantly, less than 25% of roads have separated, paved sidewalks, most of which are either occupied by parked cars, or are damaged, without proper maintenance.
"NMT users literally have to fight with vehicles for their right of way on roads and thus expose their lives to huge risks," the article explained.
Commuters worried about alternative transport options
Many people living in neighbourhoods where rickshaws have been banned, are enraged by the move.
Sumaiya Sabrin who lives at Science Lab, said most buses on this road do not allow short-haul passengers and keep their doors closed. "It is difficult to just hop onto those buses."
Elephant road resident Nazmus Sakib said the lack of proper sidewalks make it difficult for him to walk to places in the absence of rickshaws.
When asked about the inconvenience this ban might cause to commuters, DSCC Mayor Sayeed Khokon on Wednesday said, transport owners and the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) have expressed their determination to address the situation.
“A large number of public transport options will be available on these roads to address any crises that may arise," he stated.