A congested Dhaka driving cycle sales | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 24, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:51 AM, February 24, 2020

A congested Dhaka driving cycle sales

Bicycle has been the preferred mode of transport for Kazi Rokibul Haque for a good few years now.

At first the 35-year-old took to the two-wheeler as a form of exercise given his sedentary lifestyle.

But as he started riding it he found that it was a quicker mode of transport in the congested Dhaka city than cars: he could easily dodge traffic and reach his office on time.

"It saves both time and money. Before I start for office I take a look at Google Maps and decide what to use today: cycle or car," said Haque, who works at an apparel buying house in Uttara.

His commute strategy encouraged six more of his colleagues to buy two-wheelers.

Like Haque and his colleagues, an increasing number of people are signing up for cycling and thus buoying the market for the environment-friendly vehicle.

"The overall demand is definitely growing," said Joynul Abedin, chief operating officer of RFL Bike Industry, which makes and markets Duranta bicycle for both the Bangladesh and European markets.

Today, the value of the domestic bicycle market is Tk 1,200 crore and it is growing at 7-8 per cent annually, according to an estimate of RFL Bike, a concern of PRAN-RFL Group.

More people in urban areas are showing interest in using bicycles as people are progressively becoming more health conscious.

"This is also good for the environment and a good vehicle for short distance commuting," Abedin said, adding that the entry of food delivery services like HungryNaki, foodpanda, Uber Eats also added to the demand for bicycles.

Marketers and sellers said the bicycle market has been growing over the last decade thanks to improvements in the quality of roads, health consciousness, growing traffic jam in Dhaka and environmental awareness among a section of youth and mid-aged people.

The relatively lower price of bicycle than motorcycles is another factor propelling the demand for the non-motorised vehicle, which costs between Tk 8,000 and Tk 20,000 each in general.

"The use of trendy bicycle with options like gear changing is increasing in urban areas," said Abedin, adding that two lakh bicycles are sold in the domestic market in a month.

The expansion of the two-wheeler, which is seen in abundance and used by people irrespective of ages and gender in European cities like Copenhagen, comes at a time when Dhaka is termed as one of worst cities for air pollution.

And encouraged by the spiralling demand for the two-wheeler, Omar Faruk, owner of Babul Cycle Store in Dhaka's Farmgate, started selling bicycles in 2015 apart from providing repairing and maintenance services to cyclists.

Babul Cycle Store now sells roughly 20 bicycles a day, which is double the number it could sell five years ago, according to Faruk.

"Once people were purchasing cycles as a hobby. Now, many people are buying bicycles to commute to work and do other tasks to avoid traffic jams," he added.

Mohammad Jewel Mia, who works as a mason in a construction firms, is one of such person.

He has been using bicycles for the last two and half years to go to the construction site at Banani from his residence at Mohammadpur.

"This is very helpful. It saves me Tk 85 as bus and rickshaw fares on each way," he said.

Imported bicycles from China account for 60-70 per cent of the domestic market, according to sellers. 

Yet, manufacturers said locally manufactured cycles are becoming popular as these are also adorned in the European markets.

"People are buying bicycles for various purposes. We see great promise," said Md Luthful Bari, secretary of the Bangladesh Bicycle & Parts Manufacturers' and Exporters Association (BBPMEA).

Both Abedin and Bari urged the government for support to facilitate expansion of domestic manufacturing and bicycle markets.

"This could be an alternative solution to traffic jam and saving the environment from pollution and reducing the use of fossil fuel," said Bari, while calling for a separate lane on roads for bicycles.

The government should also reduce the corporate tax to make the prices of domestically manufactured cycles more competitive against the imported ones and in the export market, said Bari, also the director of operations of Meghna Group, another local manufacturer and exporter of bicycle.

Competitiveness of locally made bicycles is eroding in terms of prices against the imported ones as a section of the traders are bringing the two-wheeler in the completely knocked down (CKD) format and assembling them here, said Abedin of RFL.

Subsequently, he urged the revenue authority to discriminate between complete and painted and raw finished or unpainted components of bicycles to encourage domestic manufacturing.

But what will truly ramp up bicycle sales would be a good traffic management system to enable cyclists to move about safely.

"Once people deems it safe enough, they will jump in and get one themselves," added the plucky cyclist Haque. 

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