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Banning motorbikes is partial solution


File photo used for representational image File photo used for representational image

There is no doubt that motorcycles have become the riskiest, accident-prone, notorious and unruly vehicles on the roads and streets in the country. By incentivising the motorcycle industry in the wrong way, the government makes the vehicle easy and affordable to many people. As the personalised vehicle helps improve mobility and beats the lousy traffic, hundreds and thousands of people are now using it to move anywhere. However, a sharp rise in motorcycle rides for the long journey on highways during the Eid-ul-Fitr two months back turned the motorised two-wheelers into a public transport which is not desirable.  

All these happened due to a lack of adequate and decent public transport in the country. The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) has now imposed a restriction on the movement of motorbikes for a week during the Eid-ul-Azha. So, no one is allowed to operate bikes on highways between July 7-13 unless there is a 'valid ground'. Bikes registered with a particular district are also not permitted to run in other districts. Again, motorcycles under ride-sharing services are disallowed to move beyond their approved territory.  

The restrictive measures are, however, flawed for various reasons. First, as bikes would be allowed on 'valid ground' by taking permission from the police, it will probably open another window of rent-seeking. Second, ride-sharing apps are almost redundant as riders negotiate privately with the drivers on destinations and fares. Finally, the BRTA has no effective tool or mechanism to check whether its orders are followed and to what extent. The predictable outcome is chaos and irregularities in managing traffic on highways.  

Earlier, the movement of motorbikes over the Padam Bridge was banned a day after the bridge's inauguration. Reckless driving by a section of motor bikers and an accident that claimed two lives prompted the authorities to impose the ban indefinitely. The authorities are also considering extending the ban on Dhaka-Mawa and Dhaka-Bhanga Expressways connected to Padam Bridge. The prohibition on Padam Bridge is a right but delayed decision. There should be a ban from the beginning or at least a high toll --- maybe, in the range of Taka 500 or Tk 1,000 --- can be levied to discourage motorbikers. Tk 100 toll is a tiny amount for many bikers, especially those who drive it for joy. 

Moreover, several more risky vehicles like laguna are plying on many roads and highways illegally flouting traffic rules thanks to political backing. Without strictly curbing those, banning or restricting the movement of motorbikes as an ad-hoc step will not be an effective move in the long run. The real solution lies in a well-planned and well-managed public transport system that the authorities have failed to develop.  

Several big bridges, wider roads and long expressways have been constructed to improve the connectivity across the country. However, ensuring a suitable and adequate number of vehicles for smooth movement of people and goods is also necessary to attain the optimal benefit from the investment in the infrastructure. These require a comprehensive policy which is missing.  

  

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