POST TIME: 4 December, 2019 11:58:59 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 4 December, 2019 08:05:24 PM
Cycling needs to be encouraged
The main problem lies with the roads of the Dhaka city in particular and other cities in general which currently remain completely ill-equipped for safe bicycle travel
Mosharrof Hossain

Cycling needs to be encouraged

Cycling is increasingly visible in the Dhaka City now-a-days. The people in the city are often puzzled with the question: why are these cyclists taking risk of life on the accident prone-roads of Dhaka city? The answer becomes clear when we ponder over the matter: in an effort to evade the troublesome traffic congestion in Dhaka city, there has been a growing popularity of bicycle use among people as a form of daily travel, physical exercise and most importantly, a time-tested mode of travel and commuting.
Moreover, bicycles are environmentally friendly, easy to use, and would keep cities healthy. Consequently, bicycling has turned into one of the most sustainable methods of urban transport now-a-days. But still the cycling as transport has not flourished as much as it is expected on the basis of benefits. The main problem lies with the roads of the Dhaka city in particular and other cities in general which currently remain completely ill-equipped for safe bicycle travel and the road accidents now and then are common themes of daily life.
Erratic traffic movement, reckless drivers and motor bikers and callous pedestrians make cycling a highly stressful and risky activity in the capital, and cyclist communities have long wished for dedicated bicycle lanes, a common feature of many cities’ traffic system across the globe.

In this regard, government should be pro-active so that cities in Bangladesh would benefit greatly from a more pro-active approach by the government to ensure that bicycles become the primary mode of transportation. Bangladesh’s problems with pollution -- which remains one of the leading causes of death in the country -- alongside its traffic problems, especially in the capital, make an investment in cycling worthwhile.

Not only do we need to improve traffic conditions, moving forward, the government needs to aggressively push towards introducing cycle lanes, which would make our streets friendlier for our cyclists. It is a ray of hope that Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) is now making that long-cherished dream come true for many commuters. Work of a nine-kilometre bike lane is currently underway in Agargaon, the early results of which are now visible. The route goes through the north side of Islamic Foundation, LGED Road and University Grants Commission. According to DNCC officials, 285 metres out of nine kilometres of the road have been completed so far. There are three lanes on both sides of the median -- one for bicycles, one used as a street car parking facility, and one main lane for vehicular movement. Width of the bicycle lanes -- which are being constructed on both sides of the road -- are six feet each. Usually a bicycle lane is supposed to be five feet as per international standards, and but we have six feet. There are three types of roads by width in the area -- 150 feet, 100 feet and 60 feet, of which the roads having the highest width will be under the three-lane system.

Their usefulness is reflected in how prominent a feature they have become in most European cities, with their respective governments implementing several initiatives to ensure that there is a vibrant cycling culture in their cities. In many European cities, cycling is a part of the culture. Riding a bike is an easy, affordable and healthy way of life that is both accepted and encouraged. Infrastructure has been planned to cater to those on two wheels, with city planners realizing the benefits of this environmentally-friendly pastime.

Top 10 most bike-friendly cities in Europe

1. Copenhagen

No argument is better than numbers to show how Copenhagen tops the list of most bike-friendly cities. In the Danish capital, around a third of its residents are biking to work on a regular basis. Copenhagener bikes 1,200,000 kilometers per year on average. The city also has more bikes than its residents, 560 thousands and 520 thousands respectively. 63% of its congressmen bike to work. The numbers could go on and on. You can travel fast with a bicycle, but still slowly enough to enjoy Copenhagen’s sights on the way with this City Bike Tour.  

2. Amsterdam

Being the "Bicycling Capital of Europe" - although challenged by Copenhagen in the recent years, Amsterdam is still one of the world’s benchmark cities for cycling. Nearly 40% of all commutes that take place in Amsterdam are done by bicycle. Explore Amsterdam from the saddle of a bike and experience the Canal Belt just like a local.

3. Strasbourg

Despite being new to the Copenhagenize Index, Strasbourg has long been the premier cycling city in France. Cycling in Strasbourg is a pleasant experience and, as it should be, the quickest way from A to B.

4. Malmö

Sweden’s third-largest city has been wise to look west its sister-city Copenhagen for inspiration. Being “Sweden’s cycle city”, it is linked by 490 kilometers of bicycle paths, containing more bicycle pathways than any other Swedish cities.

5. Nantes

Hosted the global bicycle conference Velo-City in June 2015, Nantes demonstrates that they understand that creating a bicycle-friendly city is not just about building infrastructure but it's most of all about developing a place where from kids to elderly people can all enjoy cycling.

6. Barcelona

Barcelona has created a bike path with 100 different bike stations as part of Barcelona's bike-sharing programme, allowing riders to rent and drop off at different locations. It is one of the best on the planet as measured by usage rates.

7. Berlin

Cycling in Berlin is a significant form of transport in the German capital. The city has highly developed bicycling infrastructure and it is estimated to have 710 bicycles per 1000 residents. With crazily wide streets – according to the European standard and the ability to cycle through parks, you can definitely enjoy the city cycling.

8. Zurich

Nearly every inhabitant of Zurich is a “pedestrian” at least once a day, either from work to lunch or strolling along the Sihl river. Cycling in Zurich is the best way to get around. Discover Zurich, the enchanting little-big city, on an informative 3-hour cycle tour.

9. Utrecht

Utrecht is a bristling, bicycle-friendly city. Every day, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., over 100,000 cyclists ride to their work or study via the city center. The city is also working on five comfortable, quick and safe main bicycle routes to make the city more attractive and accessible.

10. Paris

Few would have believed that Paris could have pulled it off to even become a bike friendly city, but it’s doing just that. The bike sharing system launched in 2007 was embraced by the citizens. As of 2014, Vélib' is the world's 12th-largest bike sharing programme by the number of bicycles in circulation.

Bicycles are environmentally friendly, easy to use, cost-effective, and would keep the denizens of our cities healthy -- there is no better mode of transport for short to medium distances. Despite the growing popularity of cycling as means of commuting, exercise and a recreational activity, even the most optimistic would not rank Dhaka as a cyclist-friendly city. Bangladesh would do well to take a leaf out of their books and push hard in this area. A concerted effort is required to make cycles a safe and affordable feature of Bangladesh’s urban landscape. This will also have the benefit of proving to be a major boost for our home-grown bicycle manufacturing industry, which should be incentivized further. Providing safe bike-only cycle paths, plentiful cycle parking facilities and access to bike-friendly public transport has become more and more important, otherwise street accident will be increasing day by day.

The writer is a journalist and teacher