A recent parliamentary decision in Bangladesh further extends the rickshaw ban across many parts of Dhaka. This anti-people initiative was taken apparently on the basis of some prejudices against fuel free transportation, rickshaw in particular, without any regard to proper scientific investigation.
It is hoped that authorities will eventually see the importance of fuel-free transport. Given the small modal share of automobiles and the many problems they cause, there should be no provision for creating more auto-only roads within urban areas, and all existing auto-only roads should be converted into mixed-use roads by properly integrating public transit with other modes.
Lessons can be learned from the Mirpur Road Demonstration project before proceeding with transport planning, where fuel free transport (rickshaws and rickshaw vans) were banned. This case showed a very different direction from that of current transport initiatives in Dhaka. The answer lies in the “After Project” report of a government-mandated study into the project, which showed a number of key congestion indices with respect to before and after scenarios including:
No travel time gain for fuel-dependent vehicles was achieved due to the rickshaw ban. Bus travel has worsened following the rickshaw ban; passenger travels by bus has become slower than by rickshaw. An increase in congestion due to taxi operators reluctant to take short trips, causing significant increases in waiting times for passengers. The economic impact of the fuel-free transport ban has been devastating; figures show losses as high as Tk 1.52 billion (€10 milliard) per year in the area. Overall, the banning of fuel-free transport has deteriorated accessibility of the majority of road users by cutting access to side roads, destroying the continuity of the transport system, and hampering door-to-door mobility of passengers. In government sponsored studies the overall net impact of rickshaw ban was disproportionately in the negative side.
It may be mentioned here that after failure of the rickshaw ban in the demonstration project of the Mirpur Road, the World Bank has set the standard of extending further bans on the condition that: “Any future support from the World Bank would be possible only if it can be demonstrated that aggregate positive impacts of NMT-free conversion on transport users and transport providers outweigh the aggregate negative impact”. We hope it will set the minimum standard for all decision makers and transport professionals in Bangladesh prior to embarking on any potentially regressive transport policy.
Yet policies continue to give car owners absolute priority, while ignoring the fundamental principle of any transport project appraisal, that is, that net user benefits of any transport intervention must exceed net loss. The double standard of providing absolute priority to a tiny minority of car owners, while at the same time restricting environmentally friendly and efficient rickshaws, not only has no scientific basis as far as congestion management is concerned, also infringes on the fundamental rights of the vulnerable rickshaw drivers to earn a living by legal means. Moreover, such ban will increase sufferings of the most vulnerable road users, such as, women, children and disables by depriving them from having their most suitable means of transport.
As people’s representatives, we hope to uphold the fundamental principal of social justice and transport policy appraisal on the basis of economic efficiency and social equity and revoke further ban on rickshaws and reintroduce them where they were previously banned without further delay.
International Expert on Transportation Infrastructure
Ministry of Infrastructure , Republic of Rwanda