The importance of good public transport system is immense for the development of a country. In the last few decades, significant changes have taken place in the public transport system in Bangladesh. Changes are noticeable, especially in the rural transport system. As most of the unpaved roads in the villages across the country are paved, different types of vehicles have started running on these roads. Some of those are motorized vehicles like rickshaws, vans, auto rickshaws, CNG, buses, minibuses etc. In the last few years, Easy Bike, a battery-powered three-wheeled vehicle, has become one of the most popular means of transportation for people from urban areas to remote villages. Now the movement of this vehicle can be seen in any divisional, district, upazila town, and municipal areas and even at the village level growth centres of the country. There are various arguments and opinions for and against this vehicle running in cities and villages.
At one time, the only means of transportation in the rural areas of the country was boat and bullock cart or horse carts on the dirt roads. Extensive renovation and reconstruction of rural roads began in the 1970s. Gradually the unpaved roads began to be paved or semi-paved. The connection between rural and urban area was established as well as different types of vehicles started running on those roads. Experts say the easy bike was introduced in the country after 2000. Now this vehicle is in abundance anywhere in the country. It is difficult to get any exact number of this vehicle across the country, because there is no regulatory body for their import, production and control.
Again, many argue against it by saying that recharging its batteries consumes a huge amount of electricity. Many people recharge them illegally with electricity connection. As a result, there was a shortage of electricity in other sectors and the government was deprived of getting revenue. Many people think that the risk of road accident is also increasing due to this vehicle. Sometimes the driver of this vehicle does not follow any rules and regulations which caused traffic jams. As a result, the suffering of the common people also increases. For this vehicle traffic jams are also created in places where it is not supposed to be. Especially on the highways, although its movement is prohibited, but due to non-compliance, many people die in accidents. Most of the drivers of this vehicle are not trained. As a result, they are ignorant of the rules and regulations of the traffic and due to non-compliance with the rules they get into accidents and cause accidents for other vehicles. Many people died, were injured and paralyzed each year due to road accidents.
However, no matter what the argument is for or against, easy bike is not a sustainable vehicle in a country like ours. It is true that in the last one decade, there has been a lot of development in the rural roads and communication system in the country. At the same time, many types of transport have been introduced. A lot of people have been employed in these transports. There is no way to deny the contribution of these transports to the national economy. Despite this, these transports have created a chaotic environment on the roads. Anyone from a developed country is amazed to see so many types of vehicles moving together on the same road, at the same time, in our country. So it seems that it is time to pay immediate attention to restore order on roads and highways.
We know that most of the roads in our country are made of low quality materials. Moreover, the roads are narrow and heavy weight vehicle like trucks run on the roads. As a result, these roads became unusable within two to three years. This is especially true for rural roads system. The movement of other vehicles including easy bikes on broken and bumpy roads increases the risk of accidents as well as the misery of the people. Therefore, many experts believe that effective measures need to be taken to build sustainable roads and transportation system.
The government now has to make the right decision about this transport called easy bike. It needs to consult with experts of this sector. Moreover, alternative transport systems need to be developed considering those who have been employed and those who have invested in the sector. If easy bike is to be continued, its drivers must be brought under proper training. A regulatory authority has to be set up to import, manufacture, marketing, providing license and control the movement of this vehicle.
Improved transport and communication system is essential for the development of socio-economic condition of a country. It is a prerequisite for socio-economic progress. That is, economic development and improved transport and communication systems are inextricably linked. Also, the improved transportation system carries the identity of civilization. Bangladesh has already become a developing country and is moving forward with the goal of becoming a developed country by 2041. So we have to start planning and working now with a suitable transportation system in rural areas.
The writer is a Research Consultant, Human Development Research Centre (HDRC), Dhaka