Thursday, November 27, 2014

Breaking records: Dhaka rickshaws make the Guinness Book of World Records

Breaking records: Dhaka rickshaws make the Guinness Book of World Records

For years, city officials have complained that “no other city has as many rickshaws as Dhaka,” somehow equating rickshaws with poverty and backwardness. Now, with Guinness recognizing Dhaka as an exceptional city for its many lakh non-polluting, truly green rickshaws, we can proudly say that “no other city has as many rickshaws as Dhaka!”

The city streets of Dhaka are choked with cars, despite only 5% of trips being made by car. Imagine if that figure doubled to 10%? Traffic would come to a complete standstill, or we would have to bulldoze more and more buildings in order to build ever wider roads, thus making destinations ever farther apart and generating even more traffic. Rickshaws, meanwhile, fit easily down all but the narrowest lanes. They move about as quickly as the average car in crowded streets. They require no fuel to operate and spew out no poisonous fumes. They provide much-needed employment to countless people, and offer the comfort and convenience of door-to-door transport to city dwellers.

European transport officials talk proudly of the high percentage of trips that are made by bicycle in their cities. Bicycles represent green transport, requiring no fuel to operate and very few resources for their construction or disposal. The “cleanest” car is still dirty when we consider the source of its fuel (electricity often comes from coal, which is even worse than petrol) and all the resources needed to build and dispose of it. And what is a rickshaw but a three-wheeled bicycle?

The fact that we can still breathe the air in Dhaka, and that it is still possible to move about the city (albeit slowly and with difficulty) is in large part thanks to the presence of the rickshaws. Even if we get a great system of public transit, people will still need “last mile connectivity”: a way to get to and from the public transit stops. Rickshaws will be essential for that service. They are also essential for short trips, especially given how miserable and dangerous the conditions currently are for walking and cycling. Rickshaws offer a relatively independent mode of travel for people with disabilities. And all without generating pollution.

The eyes of the world are now turning to Dhaka. For many years, the rickshaw has been a symbol of pride, an example of local art cum transport. It is exhibited in the Dhaka airport, at various hotels, and at local and international events. Yet there are those who have been keen to see it banned or restricted on city streets, despite the mounting evidence that reducing the rickshaw has absolutely no beneficial effect whatsoever on the flow of traffic, and that rickshaw bans likely contribute to ever-increasing air pollution. With this welcome recognition from Guinness, it is time to match our actions to our gestures. The rickshaw should indeed be a source of national pride, and it should be welcomed and encouraged on our city streets. We all need to recognize that the rickshaw is a solution, not a problem, in terms of traffic congestion, pollution, affordable transport, and employment. We all can join in celebrating Dhaka as the City of the Rickshaw.



David J said...

Great article and excellent news. Often all we need is a change of perspective and suddenly things can change. A shame though that big decisions are actually determined by fickle opinions.

anowar.ar77 said...

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