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The humble cycle making a comeback on Dhaka streets

Jul 01, 2013

Hundreds of cyclists in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, took to the streets on Friday for what they called a "ride for the environment," reflecting a change of lifestyles in the South Asian country.

Fed up with massive traffic jams, urban workers in Bangladesh are increasingly switching to the good old bicycle benefiting its environment in the bargain.

Hundreds of cyclists in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, took to the streets on Friday for what they called a "ride for the environment," reflecting a change of lifestyles in the South Asian country, which is witnessing a surge in the popularity of cycling as commuters attempt to break out of traffic gridlocks and rundown vehicles in the city.

The sight of bicyclists sporting helmets and sunglasses is becoming increasingly common on the bustling streets of Dhaka and the city was, therefore, an ideal venue for creating some more enthusiasm for the eco-friendly mode of commute. Mozammel Huque who heads BDCylists, the force behind the Friday ride, said that by 2014 his "organisation wants 5% of all users of motorised transport to turn to bicycles and thereby adopt a safe, fast and green mode of commuting."

"This would turn 35,000 people to bicycles for their regular travelling," said Huque. Seven million people use public or private motor vehicles in Dhaka, the eighth most populous country in the world every day. Huque, a software developer and an occasional adventurist, started peddling to work in 2010 out of sheer frustration with the city's dysfunctional traffic, where keeping an appointment is a herculean challenge. "Anyone can get outside of Dhaka to its countryside in only 20 to 25 minutes [by riding a bicycle]," says Huque, whereas in a city where nobody abides by the manually operated traffic signals, travelling on cars and buses wastes half the day in gridlocks.

"Cycling is the only way to save commute time in in Dhaka," says Jubair Rahman, a banker who started out alone commuting on a bicycle nearly five years back but now has six to seven other bicycles parked with his at work.

"It is fascinating," he says. BDCyclists, which represents the growing pool of cyclists in the country currently organizes fun rides on weekends and a "critical mass" on the last Friday of every month to achieve a green environment and create awareness for healthy living. Critical mass is a self-organised cycling event held in over 300 cities around the world.

As more citizens become conscious about their time, Huque's initiative is gaining in popularity by the day as he reaches his target of converting motor vehicle commuters to cyclists. What began as a personal choice three years ago has inspired a revolution that now has 15,500 cycling members.

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