While two-wheeler ridesharing services have brought relief to commuters in the city, lack of regulation has introduced some challenges as well.
While more and more people are using ridesharing apps to move through dense traffic rather quickly on motorbikes and reach their destinations on time, the bikers are also clustering on a number of busy roads and intersections violating rules, resulting in increased traffic congestion.
At a number of points in the city, bikers stand in groups. Karwan Bazar, Farmgate, Hatirjheel (Rampura section), different parts of Mirpur, Mohakhali and Shyamoli are some areas where they wait for passengers, mostly during office hours.
Although people from different walks of life acknowledge the ridesharing services' usefulness, they also express their dissatisfaction over the trouble they cause for pedestrians and vehicular movement.
“Bikers park their motorbikes blocking half of the way after office hours in front of Ekushey Television office at Karwan Bazar; it creates problems when a car wants to cross a traffic signal,” said Rafiqul Islam, a communication officer of a private company, who commutes on the route daily.
“The footpaths are already occupied by hawkers; if the roadsides are occupied by bikers, it becomes impossible to walk,” he said.
More than 75,000 motorcycles were registered with BRTA in 2017 in Dhaka, the year when different ride-sharing companies first introduced bike services in the megacity. A number of motorbikes and their riders have arrived from outside Dhaka to make a living from two-wheeler ridesharing, adding to the traffic load on city streets.
At the Rampura entrance of Hatijeheel there are “no parking” signs, but bikers pay little heed to it. Security staffers drive them off, but they cluster again in the same spot shortly.
“We provide app-based ride service; we do not have any particular stand. So we park our bikes wherever there is scope to pick up passengers,” said biker Md Jaman at Hatirjheel.
Traffic officials also say controlling motorbikes has become a problem.
Tejgaon Police Station Traffic Inspector Anwar Kabir said, “Karwan Bazar is one of the busiest areas where vehicles are already jam-packed during office hours. But the recent increase in the number of bikes and their scattered parking all over causes issues in vehicular movement.”
“We try our best to stop bikers from parking on the roads, but they keep doing it,” said the inspector, adding that bikers need a specific parking lot or any other solution to discourage them from parking here and there.
There are also allegations from some passengers that riders do not use the app sometimes, and prefer to go on verbal agreement. At different points of the city, they call out to passengers.
Masum Hossain, who has been providing ridesharing services for the last six months, said: “Yes, it is true that some rides are not based on apps. But the number is minimal. As everyone has smartphone now, all passengers who use apps get various discounts.”
“Such incident only happens when someone runs out of mobile internet or battery charge. Consequently, passengers themselves sometimes ask riders to go on verbal agreement,” he added.
REGULATION REMAINS AN ISSUE
In March last year, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority issued a gazette on Ridesharing Service Guideline-2017, to bring app-based services under government monitoring.
However, none of the 16 ridesharing companies that have applied for registration have managed to fulfil the conditions.
Against this backdrop, BRTA in January this year, proposed to the Road Transport and Bridges Ministry to let it register the companies by giving them a deadline for fulfilling the conditions.
Meanwhile on January 15, Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia -- at the inauguration of fortnight-long traffic discipline campaign in the city -- said that vehicles plying under app-based ridesharing services are contributing to traffic chaos in the capital, and the home minister and road transport minister are thinking of bringing those under control.
On January 27, the road transport and bridges ministry in a meeting decided that vehicles registered outside Dhaka would not be allowed to enlist with any ridesharing company operating in the city. Besides, BRTA was also directed to propose the highest ceiling for the number of vehicles to be enlisted with any particular ride-hailing company.
Regarding the bikers' and ridesharing app companies' responsibility, founder and Managing Director of ridesharing venture Shohoz, Maliha M Quadir said, “The bikers who are using ridesharing app professionally are independent micro-entrepreneurs. They are not employed by the companies. However, we give feedback to drivers, and if any incongruity happens we unregister them.”
“At the end of the day, bikers have to remember they have a lot of responsibility as well,” she added.