Rickshaws under threat in Dhaka

A Rickshaw ©Maruf Rahman

A Rickshaw ©Maruf Rahman

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.

A mother and a child on a rickshaw ©Maruf Rahman

A mother and a child on a rickshaw ©Maruf Rahman

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.

Mahabubul Bari

International Expert on Transportation Infrastructure

Ministry of Infrastructure , Republic of Rwanda

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3 Responses

  1. Fuel Consumption and Environmental Impact of Rickshaw Bans in Dhaka

    Most trips in Dhaka are short in distance, usually one to five kilometers. These trips are perfect of Rickshaws. Rickshaws are cheap and popular mode of transport over short distances. Rickshaws are safe, environmentally friendly and do not rely on fossil fuels. Rickshaws support a significant portion of the population, not only the pullers, but also their families in the villages, the mechanics who fix the rickshaws, as well as street hawkers who sell them food. From the raw materials to the finished product the Rickshaw employs some 38 different professions. Action needs to be taken to support the Rickshaw instead of further banning it in Dhaka. The combined profits of all Rickshaws out earn all other passenger transport modes (bus, rail, boats and airlines) combined. In Dhaka alone, Rickshaw pullers combine to earn 20 million taka a month.

    We think that over the coming holiday of Eid du Ajah, new Rickshaw bans will be put into action on roads in Dhaka. Eid was used in the past to place new bans on roads in Dhaka. Last Eid many roads were declared Rickshaw free without public support or approval. By banning Rickshaws roads are clogged with increased private car use as well as increased parking by cars. Banning of Rickshaws on major roads increases the transportation costs for commuters. Not only due to longer trips to avoid roads with bans in effect, but also due to actually having to take more expensive forms of transport such as CNG or Taxi, where in the past a Rickshaw would suffice. The environmental impact of banning Rickshaws is obvious because it exchanges a non-motorized form of transport for a motorized form of transport, thus increasing the pollution and harming the environment. Rickshaw bans harm the most vulnerable in society, mainly the sick, poor, women, children and the elderly; generally those who can not afford or do not feel comfortable on other forms of public transport. To ban Rickshaws also hurts small businesses that rely on them as a cheap and reliable form of transporting their goods. Rickshaws are ideal for urban settings because they can transport a relatively large number of passengers while taking up a small portion of the road. In 1998 the data showed that Rickshaws took up 38% of road space while transporting 54% of passengers in Dhaka . The private cars on the other hand, took up 34% of road space while only transporting 9% of the population (1998 DUTP). This data does not include the parking space on roads that cars take up in Dhaka . If included this would further raise the amount of space taken up by private cars. Every year the Rickshaw saves Bangladesh 100 billion taka in environmental damage.

    The government makes many efforts to reduce traffic congestion in Dhaka but with no success. Blaming Rickshaws for traffic congestion and subsequently banning them from major roads has not had the desired affect. Traffic is still as bad now as it was before the Rickshaws were banned on major roads. Rickshaws thus can not be seen as the major cause of traffic congestion. Instead one should look towards private cars and private car parking on roads as the major cause of traffic congestion. The space gained by banning Rickshaws is often used for private car parking. The current trend in transport planning reduces the mobility of the majority for the convenience of the minority. The next time a ban on Rickshaws on another road is discussed please take into consideration who is being hurt and who is being helped. For a better transport system in Dhaka we need to create a city wide network of Rickshaw lanes. If this is done Dhaka can reduce its fuel usage dramatically as well its pollution. We ask your help in our fight to keep Dhaka a Rickshaw city. Any information or help is very much appreciated and sought after. I write you this letter to describe the difficulties we are facing and some solutions but they are by no means exhaustive and we look forward to your help and input.

    Syed Saiful Alam
    Central member of Save The Environment Movement৷
    http://dhaka-rickshaw.blogspot.com/2008/08/fuel-consumption-and-environmental_15.html.com

  2. I want to cite from the estimation above on economic cost of rickshaw ban.How i can cite this ?is it published anywhere so that i can refer it???

  3. that’s right that rickshaw should be banned from all the main roads of dhaka city. because rickshaw run very slowly and most of time create terrible traffic jam. rickshaw cannot be run to competent with the modern vehicle.

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