On Tuesday morning, rickshaws were seen moving on both lanes in the Kalabagan area of Mirpur Road in the capital. Waiting for the signal to turn green at the Kalabagan bus stop, rickshaws and pull carts were jostling for space.
There is, however, a ban on plying of such vehicles on the main roads of the city.
While traffic officials were busy checking documents of other motor vehicles, a few rickshaws took the chance to get on the wrong way, against the flow of traffic, on the road to get to their destinations quicker.
To reduce traffic congestion in the capital, restrictions were imposed on the entry of rickshaws on the main roads of the capital in 2019. A committee was formed to stop rickshaw movement. When the pandemic broke out, resulting in curbs on public transport, the police exempted rickshaws from the ban. However, despite the pandemic easing, non-motorised vehicles are yet to be taken out of the main roads.
Although road rules violations were plenty, traffic controllers say the situation is under their control to the best of their ability.
Sergeant Sabuj, who was in charge at the Kalabagan signal, told The Business Standard, "We will not allow rickshaws to enter this route except for crossing to reach the bus stop. But, if we see a sick person going to hospital, we will allow them. As there are multiple connecting roads in this area, it is not possible to control it 100%."
Md Anis regularly plies the road with his rickshaw. Speaking to TBS, he said the police no longer stopped them. If one was going to New Market or Lalmatia, then the main road could be used. Occasionally, rickshaws would get stuck in the nearby alleys when there is a VIP movement taking place.
Anis said the signal could not be crossed before the pandemic.
Sometimes, traffic sergeants used to overturn some rickshaws or release the air from the rickshaw wheels, but this was not done during or after the pandemic.
A city corporation official, under the condition of anonymity, said the concession of allowing rickshaws on the main road came amid the pandemic due to humanitarian reasons. Earlier, mobile courts were used for preventing illegal rickshaw movement, but in recent times this has not been done regularly.
The plying of such slow-moving vehicles on main thoroughfares, however, has been a cause of headaches for other commuters.
Tamim Ayman, a driver of a private car, said, "We have to come to this road often. When the pressure of rickshaws increases on the main road, traffic is forced to move slowly, resulting in long tailbacks. Apart from Kalabagan, a lot of rickshaws also ply Elephant Road and many rickshaw-pullers drive recklessly. They switch lanes without any warning and go the wrong way," he said.
Additional Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police's Traffic Division (Dhanmondi Zone) Zahid Ahsan told TBS, "During Corona, we were forced to normalise rickshaw movement. But now we are preventing those again, especially during peak office hours. However, there are many connecting roads in this part of Mirpur Road and we are not able to control it completely due to lack of manpower."
The same picture can be seen on the main roads of several areas of the capital, including Kalabagan, Shyamoli, Banani and Badda. Experts cite rickshaw movement on the main road as the cause of accidents and slow moving traffic.
Dr Adil Muhammad Khan, professor of urban and regional planning at Jahangirnagar University, told TBS that high-speed and low-speed transport on the same road would create various problems. Accidents could happen at any time. "Rickshaws still run on the main roads of our capital, but there should be a separate lane for rickshaw movement," he said.
He said an outright ban on rickshaws was not a solution, before arranging an alternative. He also suggested creating other forms of employment for rickshaw-pullers.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Deputy Commissioner of Public Relations and Media (DC) Mohammad Farooq Hossain told TBS that the previous rules have been imposed again after the lockdown. "We have checked the movement of rickshaws on all the main roads, except in residential areas. In addition, the city corporation regularly coordinates with us in controlling the movement of rickshaws," he said.