Eid holidaymakers' journey to their hometowns and villages from Dhaka has witnessed a new trend this year--- journeys by motorcycles. A large number of motorcycles were seen crossing the Padama river by ferries and the Jamuna river via the Bangabandhu Bridge. 'Record number of motorcycles cross Bangabandhu Bridge' -- is a news item that became the most read in different online news portals. Pictures of motorcycles only on a ferry also went viral on social media. A terminal was designated for motorcycle crossings only at Shimulia Ghat of the Padma. The scene has some similarities to that of Indonesia where a large number of Eid holidaymakers travel to their hometowns or villages by motorcycles.
The rise in motorcycle rides for the long Eid journey on highways has surprised many. There is, however, nothing to be surprised as it was predictable. Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samiti (BJKS) had predicted on the eve of Eid this year that at least two million motorcycles would run on the national highways for the Eid journey and these two-wheelers would make at least four million trips in different districts of the country.
Inadequate and mismanaged public transport is primarily responsible for the increased number of motorbikes making Eid journeys no matter how risky the trips are. In the country, the public transport system is still inefficient and flawed. That public transport suffered undermining due to poor governance has also been reflected by the unprecedented motorbike trips during Eid. Over the years, the government policy to incentivise motorcycles in a flawed manner increased their numbers phenomenally. According to the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) statistics, the total number of registered motorcycles in the country stood at 0.40 million in 2019. The number came down to 0.31 million in 2020 due to Covid-19 and increased further to 0.37 million in 2021. Besides the registered bikes, there are some unregistered bikes also.
No doubt, motorbikes have increased the mobility of people and also emerged as a source of income for a section of youths. In a densely populated country like Bangladesh which suffers a lack of well-designed public transport, motorcycles bring some relief to many.
There are, however, its downsides. Proliferation of motorcycles creates undue tailbacks on roads in many cases, especially within the cities. Unruly and reckless driving by a section of bikers enhances the risk of accidents and creates problem for other vehicles and pedestrians. Highway journeys by motorcycles are even riskier. Smooth roads and highways sometimes instigate riding at higher speeds and compete with each other or work as an extra motivation for reaching home earlier than a reasonable timeline. This is dangerous for not only the riders but also for other vehicles.
Finally, encouraging motorcycles as an alternative to public transport is a wrong approach. It is time to review the policy and ensure efficient public transport across the country. Reliance on motorcycles gives the rider a false sense of importance and liberty because in a country with deplorable road safety records, they are most vulnerable. Again, ride-sharing as a job is not decent and sustainable in the long run. Many of these riders deserve better work. The policymakers need to pay attention to the matter.