Friday, September 14, 2007

National Ride to Work Day

Wednesday 17th October will be National Ride to Work Day in Australia and I have decided to get on board for the Big breakfast at our local University!

Our breakfast will be held at the Student Square BBQ area at Charles Darwin University, Casuarina NT. 7:00 to 9:00am

We will have representatives from various community groups and are expecting a good turn our of people from the local community.

Alas I still haven't found a Rickshaw. I thought I would have one by now but my plans have fallen through. It would have been great to transport people to work on the day, but I guess I'll be riding my bike.


gs said...

hello david j
what was the response? any pictures?

syed saiful said...

Syed Saiful Alam Shovan, Volunteer, Save Environment Movement, Dhanmondi, Dhaka

Most trips in Dhaka are short in distance, usually one to five kilometres. These trips are perfect for rickshaws. Rickshaws are a 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 foods. From the raw materials to the finished product the rickshaw employs people in 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 exceed that of all other passenger transport modes.

We think a new ban on rickshaws will be put into force on some roads in Dhaka very soon. During the last Eid many roads were declared rickshaw free without public support or approval. 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 scooters or taxi. 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. Ban on rickshaw harms the most vulnerable in society, mainly the sick, poor, women, children and the elderly; generally those who cannot afford or do not feel comfortable on other forms of public transport. Banning 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 rickshaws save Tk 100 billion by not causing environmental damage.

The governments made 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 effect. Traffic is still as bad now as it was before the rickshaws were banned on major roads. Rickshaws thus cannot 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. 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 as its pollution.

David J said...

Hi GS and Syed Saiful,
I'm so sorry I missed these comments.
Unfortunately I have been quite busy and neglected this blog.
The plight of the rickshaw wallah's is a good indication of how governments have totally miss judged the needs of their people! Surely it is better to be usefully employed and productive people. If we are occupied in our lives and part of a flourishing community then most of peoples needs are being met. This infatuation we seem to have with the new, modern, and costly devices of our technological world is sometimes to our own detriment.

Syed Saiful Alam said...

Hi david
Please Visit this site for more information about Dhaka rickshaw.

Anonymous said...

Why blame rickshaws only?
Asif K Shams, Banani, Dhaka

Being a disabled person I am seriously inconvenienced by the ban on rickshaws on important roads. I am a mid-level employee so cannot afford CNGs , even if I can find one. Taxis and private cars are unthinkable. For this reason I am very pleased to see that your fearless newspaper has highlighted the acute problems caused by traffic jams on a daily basis. However, the police authorities are relentless in blaming rickshaws for the jams and even force me to walk (I use a crutch) in the heat and in the rain.

Over the last 2/3 weeks you are printing revealing pictures of gridlock on the road, when not one rickshaw can be seen. The actual cause is apparent to all (except perhaps, the authorities). There are too many private cars on Dhaka's roads that are too narrow to accommodate them all. Most of these cars are huge requiring lots of octane, cause pollution and park anywhere they like without any difficulty to obstruct traffic in all directions. Moreover, their incessant honking on hydraulic horns is turning most of Dhaka people deaf, as the police sergeant confessed in your paper recently.

In this connection, I have been following the writings of Sikander Ahmed and others who are giving many useful suggestions. He claims that if existing traffic laws are strictly followed and implemented, both motorized and non-motorized transports can ply on the roads with ease. Why isn't someone listening, instead of constantly putting the blame on those who cannot fight back.- usually the poor rickshawallas and those who use them.

Syed Saiful Alam said...

How inhuman is the business of pedaling a rickshaw? It might not be a profession most of you reading this article would like to have, but neither is it likely you would wish to spend hours a day standing in water, bent at the waist, transplanting rice. The measure of whether a profession is inhuman is not whether or not we are willing to engage in it, but rather what those working in it feel about it and what their alternatives are. Rickshaw pulling is a huge source of needed jobs; the pullers themselves clearly prefer it to begging or starving. Further, unlike many other professions, it is fairly well-paid, involves a good deal of independence, and gives the pullers a chance to choose their hours and to rest when they wish. It is thus far less inhuman than many other professions. What is inhuman is denying people the right to earn a living.

How well can we manage without the rickshaw in Dhaka? It is important to remember that many trips taken are short. Does it make sense to wait 10-20 minutes for a bus in order to travel 3 kilometres? What if you have many destinations: say a woman taking her child to school, going to a shop, visiting a relative, going home, then going back to pick up her child? If she had to buy separate bus tickets for each trip segment, the expense would be exorbitant. No wonder 41% of trips to take children to school occur by rickshaw; it is a safe, convenient, and affordable form of door-to-door transport.

As for walking as an alternative, we are all for it: but first there needs to be a better environment for walking. The problems faced by those on foot in Dhaka are numerous: footpaths in bad condition, often occupied by parked cars, and used at times by motorbikes; lack of safe street crossings; bad smells due to the lack of public toilets; lack of safety at night; and the exposure to continual fumes and noise from the traffic on the streets. Rickshaws provide a fairly pleasant alternative to the dismal business of walking in Dhaka; it is unfair to the middle class to take away that option in the assumption that they should either buy a car or suffer on buses, which themselves involve a number of obstacles to comfortable travel and of course only operate on certain routes, causing problems for those traveling with children, carrying heavy items, and so on.

Speaking of the popularity of rickshaws, it is helpful to compare the percentage of trips that occur by rickshaw versus car. No measures have been taken to ban cars from narrow lanes, despite the obvious fact that cars create congestion in the lanes, blocking the easy movement of hundreds of people traveling by rickshaw. Far from it: the building code is insisting on the provision of ever more car parking, providing incentive for ever more cars, even on narrow streets. But how popular is the car versus the rickshaw?

According to the latest government figures, for overall trips in the Dhaka Metropolitan Area and Dhaka City Corporation, 4-5% are made by car versus 29-39% by rickshaw. While men make 32% of their trips by car, that figure is 47.4% for women. As mentioned, 41% of trips to school occur by rickshaw; only 4% are taken by car (yet cars already create hideous congestion around schools and during the times when children go to and from school). While car use is far higher among the wealthy (here defined as those earning over 50,000 taka per month), at 18% of trips, that figure is still dwarfed by rickshaw trips: 35% of trips taken by the wealthy are by rickshaw. That is, rickshaws account for twice the number of trips as cars even among the wealthier, and up to ten times as many trips overall. If it is so important to ban vehicles due to the congestion they create, why on earth is it the rickshaw that is being banned?

Syed Saiful Alam said...

Finally, are rickshaws an antiquated vehicle that should be relegated to the past, or instead a glowing emblem of modernity? The most modern, attractive, liveable cities are mostly in western Europe. A significant portion of trips in those cities – say, 30-50% or more – occurs by bicycle. European cities, as well as growing numbers of cities in Australia and North America, promote the bicycle in order to reduce traffic congestion, fumes, noise, and travel expense, and to increase the attractiveness and liveability of cities.

What after all is a rickshaw but a three-wheeled bicycle (imagine trying to cycle through wonder people prefer rickshaws!). Given the related catastrophes of climate change, peak oil, obesity, and lack of physical activity, governments around the world are trying to get people out of their cars. It is the low-income cities of the world that are heading in the opposite direction, laying out the red carpet for cars while making life difficult and unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists. Why are policymakers in Dhaka insistent on making things worse for the city rather than better? If we really want to reduce traffic congestion, we must do what city after city around the world has been forced to do: actively work to reduce travel by car and increase travel by other means.

Years ago, an international transport expert referred to Dhaka’s modal share as “enviable”: few cars and many rickshaws. Rather than appreciate what we had and work to make things even better, we are instead working to increase traffic congestion, noise, fumes, and expense, and to make moving about the city more difficult for the non-car-owning majority.

It is also interesting to note that the latest rickshaw bans occurred after government decisions to limit car use through a variety of measures. To the best of our knowledge, none of those measures have been implemented to date, while other measures to encourage car use continue. What was done instead, despite significant media attention over the last few years to the problem of private cars, was to ban rickshaws from various streets. Clearly the decision was based on prejudice, not any technical understanding of the situation. It allows the government to say that it is doing something to improve traffic, while only making matters worse, because politically it is difficult to put into places measures to reduce the vehicle preferred by a tiny portion of the most wealthy and powerful.

But it is wrong to believe that only rickshaw pullers are upset by the bans. Dhaka residents have long suffered for the various bans that have been put into place over the years: witness the long lines of people attempting to go to and from New Market by rickshaw, or the anger of women in focus groups discussing the rickshaw bans on Mirpur Road. Of course people want safe, convenient, comfortable transport. People also vote. It is not wise to anger the masses through such wrong-minded decisions.

It is time to raise our voices in support of smart traffic planning: to ensure that all people, not just those with a car, can move about safely and conveniently; that non-polluting modes are given priority; and that international experience in addressing traffic congestion is put to good use here. It is time to say no to further rickshaw bans, to overturn the recent ones, and to work together to make Dhaka a city in which people can move about safely, comfortably, and conveniently on foot, on 2- and 3-wheeled bicycles (rickshaws), and on public transport. We would all benefit from the improved air quality, safety, and convenience.

Syed Saiful Alam
Environmental Activist

David J said...

Thank you Syed for your comments. You always provide compelling arguments for the advocacy of rickshaws. I admire your commitment to this cause!
May I use these comments as a guest post on my blog? Can I include your name and link to your profile?



David J said...

Thank you Syed for your comments. You always provide compelling arguments for the advocacy of rickshaws. I admire your commitment to this cause!
May I use these comments as a guest post on my blog? Can I include your name and link to your profile?



Anonymous said...

Yes u can