Ridesharing service by motorcycles in Bangladesh, particularly in Dhaka, has already become a chaotic one. Though it has increased the mobility of a large number of people, the lack of proper regulations and guidelines turns the service disorganised to a large extent. Although it provides the bikers some modest income, their sufferings are less known. A series of lockdown and restrictions to contain the spread of Covid-19 infection in the last one and a half years was a big blow to them.
As Covid-19 compelled many small traders and businesses to shut down their shops and trading houses, some of them opted for ridesharing for survival. Thus, competition has intensified in this field. The approximate number of motorbike drivers providing ridesharing service is around 90,000 now. Although mostly registered with ridesharing companies like Uber and Pathao, many of them are not using app-service and passengers also do not care about the app. Use of the app is a must to ensure the safety of both the drivers and commuters as the app keep records of the movement and the users. For using the app, drivers have to pay a 25 per cent commission to the company which seems high.
An increased number of motorbikes to provide the service, however, turns the already terrible traffic condition worse. Many motorcycle drivers, including some ridesharing service providers, regularly violate traffic rules and only a few of them face fines or penalties. The problem is that the police mostly slap penalties in a discriminatory manner. If a motorcycle rider is a political cadre or a member of a law enforcing agency in civil dress, he will face no trouble for a series of violations. Even if the police stop the bike, after knowing his identity there is no action at all. Instead, the traffic police target others and sometimes slap fine even when there is no flaws in documents.
Too much discretionary power and uneven enforcement of traffic rules become costly for the ridesharing service in many cases. A fine of Tk 500 may reduce the real income of a driver by 20-25 per cent in a day. The traffic police have also limited options to contain the violation of rules and maintain discipline on roads. Lack of inadequate parking spots is another big problem for motorcycles and private cars. As the main task of the traffic police is to keep the road free for movement and control the movement of vehicles in different signals, it is not possible to allow parking on roads.
An increase in motorcycle-based ridesharing service is a reflection of two broader problems. One is the lack of decent and adequate bus-based public transport. Another is the lack of necessary employment opportunities. Bus can carry 50 times more passengers of a motorcycle. When a busy city failed to provide such public transport, commuters had to look for an alternative. Again, the absence of jobs has already compelled many to drive motorcycles for ridesharing which is risky to some extent and fetches limited earning. Thus, the solution lies in addressing the broader problems of job creation .