Rickshaws at night..Posted: August 26, 2013
One of the dangers, or thrills, in the city of Dhaka has been taking rickshaws at night. It is also the most economic and sustainable way to travel in the city – if there are no ugly cars churning out fumes to kill us..or a speeding
I am cautious, however to promote such a mode of transport at night, mainly because the streets are not designed for it. This really reflects the quality of street lighting, and the main roads where cars are speeding by. Also, the potential of thieves and being attacked is quite high… However, it puts forward some clear dilemmas for city planners and development practitioners – because of the amount of usage a rickshaw gets – a BUET teacher (finishing off his PhD on rickshaws and social justice…)explained that on a daily basis, the rickshaw usage in Dhaka is more than the number of trips carried out on the London Underground during Olympics 2012. So, if there is such frequency and usage (of course this is a very simple comparison) then why isnt the city being designed and planned with the Rickshaw in mind? If it taking a huge portion of travel in the city, then how are we not developing a rickshaw-inclusive city?
So its a bizarre conundrum – a cost-effective, local, sustainable and accessible mode of transport is disregarded, for a more expensive, unsustainable and limited solution – namely – the flyovers, popping up in Dhaka. If the majority of journeys are being carried out by Rickshaws.. then the argument must be that the city should endorse it, promote safe rickshaw usage and outline strategies or tactics that benefit both the rickshaw driver and the public.
In an age where we know already, that the number of roads in Dhaka are not enough for the population of the city – that adding as many flyovers as needed will not really take away the problem of congestion – so we need to re-think the problem. Ultimately, we might need to stop seeing the rickshaw as a problem too. Making a safer environment for Rickshaw usage also creates a unique city experience – which allows to coincide with increase in tourism, beautification of the city – You only have to go into the Old town, to understand that Rickshaws cause less noise pollution, air pollution and allow for a more exciting experience, even if Modernity dictated that Cars were the future.
Unplanned urbanisation of course has its flaws – but ripping apart a mode of transport that is both an economic benefit (the entire rickshaw is made from scratch in Bangladesh, is easily serviced, and now some auto-rickshaws with small electric engines makes them faster too..) environmentally safe (most of the rickshaw is made using recycled materials) and allows for social mobility, means that city planners should re-think their hate against the rickshaws and create a city where the rickshaw can really flourish. I can imagine wonderful rickshaw tours through the city – rickshaws designed to withstand the rainy season, rickshaws able to be safely ridden at night. Its a vision for a Dhaka city that reclaims its status as a green, beautiful city full of mosques, bazaars, people and rickshaws.