Separeate lane: A timely demand

Rajib Kanti Roy

5 August, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Allocation of separate lane on city roads for bicycles is an old demand of the cyclists in urban areas. Rapid spread of coronavirus has once again brought to the forefront the demand.

Most of the offices reopened from the first week of June. Since then, cases of Covid-19 have risen. Public vehicles pose a high risk of getting infected with coronavirus as social distancing guidelines are hardly maintained in them.

Therefore many city dwellers, especially office-goers, now prefer to use bicycle to go to workplaces and other destinations. They have bought bicycles to avoid risky public buses.

But after taking bicycles they are finding it difficult to run the two-wheeler smoothly due to hasty movements of different motorised vehicles on busy roads.          

Nahid Hossain Chowdhury, executive officer of an electronics company, purchased a bicycle two weeks ago to go to his Bijoy Sarani office from Mohammadpur’s Tajmahal Road residence. “Before buying bicycle, I thought I would be able to go to my office safely. But since the start of cycling I have come to realise that bicycle riding in Dhaka city is extremely risky,” he said.

“In the absence of separate lanes for bicycle, you always have to keep an eye behind. Otherwise, you will never know when a reckless driver of a motorised vehicle will hit you,” he added.

A new bicycle is less expensive compared to a new automobile and of course it is easy to maintain. Bicycle is a better option for the women commuters as well.

Adrita Paul, a ninth semester student of a private university, said, “Women commuters are often harassed by conductors of public transport. Sometimes they need to wait helplessly for hours for a less crowded bus.”

She said, “I do tuition in Dhanmondi. Since the government holidays are over I use bicycle to reach my student’s place. It saves my time and money. But the city streets are not friendly towards bicyclists.”

In the developed countries, the state patronises bicycle use by providing economic incentives. For instance, in Luxembourg, employees can take advantage of a $340 tax refund to be used to buy a bicycle.

In the UK, under the Cycle to Work scheme, employees get discounted bikes and equipment through their employer.

In Netherlands, cyclists can claim €0.19 from their employer for every kilometre they pedal to the office.

Besides, countries like Germany, Denmark, Italy, Belgium, Sweden and China are promoting the use of bicycle through offering different facilities whereas policymakers in Bangladesh only have begun to build the first bicycle lane of the country.

Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) is constructing a 9.5km long lane in Agargaon through the north side of Islamic Foundation, LGED Road and University Grants Commission.

A Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) report has revealed that traffic congestion eats up five million productive working hours every day.

Moreover, according to Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA), around 7 lakh motorbikes and 2.87 lakh private cars are running on the streets of the capital and 40 new cars are added per day.

In a city of 18 million people, about 70 percent streets are occupied by cars. It indicates to our complete dependency on car which is not environmentally sustainable.

With more than 1,30,000 members, BDCyclists, a cycling based social network, has been promoting cycling in the capital to reduce pollution, improve traffic situation and promote a healthy and active lifestyle.

They operate largely through a Facebook group and a public page. Fuad Ahasan Chowdhury, the moderator of the Facebook page, observed, “During this pandemic situation, a significant number of people are buying bicycle to move safely. But they are struggling due to lack of bicycle lanes.”