Poor road networks, a lack of adequate pedestrian facilities and an absence of bicycle lanes have weakened the traffic infrastructure of Dhaka city, said experts at a webinar on Tuesday.
Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) and two city corporations have also demonstrated a lack of efficiency for governance, and this is why anyone in the capital can illegally occupy footpaths or roads whenever they wish, they added.
Speakers said this at a webinar organised by the Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) to mark the World Car Free Day 2020 on Tuesday.
Presenting the keynote at the event, Prof Md Shamsul Hoque from the Department of Civil Engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) said, "If we want to decrease the use of cars, more walkways and bike lanes should be built to improve the traffic infrastructure.
"Cars are considered a great curse for the environment. They are mega polluters. Cars are also termed as space and energy hungry. Cars are an unsustainable mode of transportation and they are making the city unhealthy and unlivable," he said.
Prof Hoque recommended more projects, such as flyovers, that may encourage people to use cars, not be undertaken. He also recommended that bus rapid transit (BRT) or mass rapid transit (MRT) systems be introduced instead.
"The government should undertake cost-effective pro-people projects and make footpaths exclusive for pedestrians," he added.
Criticising the traffic engineering sector in Dhaka, the expert said, "The traffic engineers lacked good foresight, because they did not correctly predict the supply and demand scenario of the capital's road infrastructure."
"The gridlock situation – caused by faulty road design, unplanned road networks, the poor quality of roads, and random traffic signals – is increasing the energy consumption of the vehicles. Further, the road management system is also very weak," he added.
Prof Hoque continued, "Roads are the backbone of a city and main roads should be straight. But ours are too curvy, which loses functionality in the context of commercial purposes. Even the upcoming Metrorail project will not be sustainable due to plenty of curvy routes. It will always have to run slowly because of the issue."
"The authorities should introduce bicycle lanes and rickshaw lanes, and make ride sharing services more popular," he said.
Adding that people should be made more aware about the adverse impact of car usage on the environment, Prof Hoque said, "Car users should be encouraged to adopt a greener method of travel."
"The traveling behavior of people has to be changed, and a sustainable public transport system should be promoted," he added.
Presiding over the programme, DTCA Executive Director Khandoker Rakibur Rahman said, "It is worth mentioning that if the use of private vehicles increases, traffic congestion will increase too."
"At present, around 3.5 lakh private cars are plying on Dhaka's roads. Furthermore, around 40 new ones are being added each day," he said, adding that these cars are transporting only 10% of the commuters.
Rakibur continued, "Currently, millions of working hours are wasted every day due to traffic jams, which in turn are causing losses amounting to thousands of crores of taka per year. Presently, around 80% of the city's dwellers commute at least five kilometers, and nearly half of them commute two kilometres.
He expressed his optimism that the use of private vehicles can be controlled – if authorities concerned ensure a decent environment for cycling and walking for people commuting shorter distances, and improve the public transport system for longer distances.
The theme of this year's World Car Free Day is "Back to walking and cycling for livable cities." In 1962, Copenhagen, Denmark forbade all traffic for one day and opened the roads for pedestrians only. Now this day is being observed in 4,000 cities across the globe.
Non-governmental organisations in Bangladesh began observing World Car Free Day in 2006, and the government began marking the day in 2016.