Pro-people transport plan

Dhaka’s transport situation must be addressed while taking into account other issues; transport does not exist in a vacuum, divorced from other parts of life.  It is not sufficient to improve Dhaka’s transport system while disregarding our air quality, levels of noise pollution (already unacceptably high in most of the city), economic situation, and quality of life.  Ideally—and quite practically—we can improve the mobility of the majority of Dhaka’s residents, while also improving our environment and quality of life.

 

How is this possible?  Quite simply, we must reduce our economically, socially, and environmentally unaffordable dependence on private cars.  We can do this by discouraging the use of private cars through a range of measures, reducing the need for lengthy trips by better mixing our neighbourhoods (keeping polluting industries out of the city but creating a mix of residences, offices, schools, health clinics, shops, restaurants, etc. throughout the city), and encouraging modes of transport that are efficient in their use of space per passengers moved and that do not pollute (a mix of public transit and non-motorized transport). 

 

It is not appropriate to set the official legal number of rickshaws at 89,000 arbitrarily, without any scientific basis.  According to two studies on rickshaws[1] [2], they are very efficient economically and have been operating under long-term marginal equilibrium conditions.  This implies that as far as economic efficiency is concerned, the numbers of rickshaws are optimal, be it legal or illegal.  There is no need to control their number.  Any sub-optimum number may promote corruption, monopolies or even unfair fare regimes.  As mentioned earlier, some modal shift from rickshaws to a more efficient mode of transport like bicycles and buses may be desirable.  (It is also important to remember that no matter how much bus services improve, buses—like cars, and as opposed to bicycles and rickshaws—will still create air pollution and be the source of serious accidents and injury.)  However, any control on the number of rickshaws has to be implemented on the basis of sound traffic management strategies, not by administrative force.

 

As regards an appropriate mix of different types of NMT, rickshaws should continue to play their due role, as they are more efficient in comparison to their motorized counterparts for short trips, and often more convenient than walking or cycling.  While rickshaw pullers represent the most underprivileged section of the society—and a reduction on rickshaws thus means a direct attack on the ability of the poorest to survive and to feed their children—rickshaw passengers mainly come from the middle class, who, according to HDRC’s report, do not perceive rickshaw fares to be high.  Rickshaws benefit the middle class through the transport they provide, and benefit the poor through providing jobs.  While rickshaws must be maintained, promotion of other NMT is also important.  Specifically, introduction of an uninterrupted network for bicycles could significantly improve people’s mobility.

 

The modal share of pedestrians is very high (63%), indicating that many people cannot afford any form of transport.  This includes the very marginal sections of the society like daily labourers, garment workers and other underprivileged people.  A cycle-friendly transport system could induce modal shift from walking to cycling, and thus provide basic transport needs to these disadvantaged people who have been deprived of their fundamental rights for so long.  This could have far reaching positive impacts on mobility and economic regeneration.  Meanwhile, rickshaws would still play an important role in transporting those unable or unwilling to bicycle, which includes the elderly, the very young, the infirm—and at the moment, given the unacceptability of cycling by females, women.

 

Past measures to control or improve traffic have focused exclusively on motor vehicles.  Road dividers are sometimes unbroken for long distances, causing cyclists and rickshaw-pullers to make detours of up to a mile.  When rickshaw lanes have been created, they have been quite narrow, despite rickshaws being the major source of transport.  While many strategies have been used to reduce rickshaws—including destroying those without a license, banning them from major roads, and preventing them from parking in many areas—no similar efforts have been made as regards cars, which are free to drive, and park without cost, almost everywhere.  Private cars can drive in small lanes, and can park on footpaths and on major roads, thereby blocking all other vehicles, including other cars.  This imbalance needs to be addressed.  Transport solutions must benefit the majority, our environment, our health, and our economy.

 

“In all respects—economic efficiency, space consumption, and availability to the population—the car is the worst form of transport on Dhaka’s streets.”

–Gallagher

 

Through a change in infrastructure and a reversal of the current propaganda campaign being carried out against non-motorized transport, we could see a vast improvement in the quality of life in Dhaka, accompanied by a cleaner and quieter environment, greater mobility for the masses, fewer serious accidents, more sociable neighbourhoods, less crime, and tremendous savings in money at the household and national level.


[1] BCEOM Fence Engineering Consultants, Development Design Consultants, IT Transport, Kranti Associates, and Resource Planning and Management Consultants (1995) “Bangladesh Rural Roads and Markets Improvement Project II (Draft Final Report)”, Report prepared on behalf of Local Government Engineering Depart (LGED), Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.

[2] Bari, M.M. (2000) “Quantification of the Effects of Non-motorised Transport and Roadside Activities”, Ph.D. Thesis, School of Civil Engineering, University of Birmingham, UK.

 

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2 Responses to “Pro-people transport plan”

  1. J Shariar Zaman Says:

    There’s no capital city in the world where the army occupies such a large piece of land that is inaccessible to the public. I think it is a danger to have the cantonment within the capital. The ammunition depots are a major risk to public security.

    The Dhaka cantonment should be moved out of Dhaka. The army is causing major problems for the civilians as it does not allow public transport to move through a major highway through the Dhaka cantonment connecting ZIA airport to the Farmgate crossroad. The army has made things including Dhaka traffic miserable for inhabitants of Dhaka and Bangladesh at large since it interfered in Bangladesh politics by backing an unelected, ‘beyond the 90 day period granted by the constitution’ government of Fakruddin brought into power in January, 2007. This lameduck stooge’s slavish allegiance to the army to savour power is reminiscent of Iajuddin’s failing performance as a CA in 2006.

    Since this unelected army-backed junta has totally failed to manage the statecraft it should immediately hold parliamentary elections and hand over power to democratically elected representatives as soon as possible before they make our life unbearable for decent living.

    An elected government should first and foremost open the major highway through the cantonment for public to give us respite from the daily traffic chaos partly created by the fascist attitude of the army to deprive citizens of their due human rights enshrined in all pro-people constitutions.

  2. Syed Saiful Alam Says:

    Suggestions for Improving Transport in Dhaka

    1. Maintain the use of rickshaws by
    a) Canceling all planned bans on rickshaws from different roads;
    b) Creating rickshaw-only lanes on major streets (including those that currently ban rickshaws), and
    c) Considering a gradual shift to improved rickshaws that are easier to maneuver and more comfortable for passengers. If the rickshaw licensing system is to be maintained, set a higher level for the number of rickshaws, and base it on research into which all citizens can have input.

    2. Cancel all plans for future flyovers, and use transportation budgets to improve public transit and conditions for NMT.

    3. Make cars less affordable and available through reducing import of cars, raising registration fees and taxes, and restricting licenses.

    4. Ban cars from small streets and lanes and from congested areas, and greatly reduce parking. Enforce a ban on parking on footpaths and on major streets.

    5. Make cycling more safe and attractive by providing separate bicycle lanes on all major roads (creating a continuous cycle lane throughout the city) and by giving bicycles priority at traffic signals so they aren

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