Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Efficiency on Wheels

Dhaka Cycle Rickshaw
Europeans are proud of the number of trips they make by bicycle, and are attempting to increase those numbers. They understand that bicycles take up very little road space, do not pollute, cost cyclists and the government very little for transport, and are good for health.

Ironically, while Western Europeans, some of the richest people in the world, are happy to cycle for transport, here in Bangladesh we prioritize motorized modes. We have contempt for the rickshaw, despite the fact that the rickshaw is simply a three-wheeled bicycle, delivering almost all the benefits of the bicycle to those who cannot use one.

Why the contempt for the rickshaw? One reason is that the rickshaw provides safe, convenient, door-to-door transport, and thus makes life easy for those who do not have a car. Those in the business of selling cars know that the existence of the rickshaw decreases the demand for a car. Why take out a loan to buy a vehicle you can’t afford when you can easily move about without one?

Judging from Western Europe, there is absolutely nothing outdated or backward about the rickshaw. In fact, the rickshaw, like the bicycle, is at the peak of civilization and modernity, a vehicle appropriate for an age of concern about climate change and environmental issues in general. Just as Europeans—Dutch, Swedes, Danes, Germans, and so on—appreciate the many advantages of their fuel-free travel option, so we too should appreciate and value the rickshaw.