Despite the growing popularity of cycling as means of commuting, exercise and a recreational activity, even the most optimistic would not rank Dhaka as a cyclist-friendly city.
Erratic traffic movement, reckless drivers and motorbikers and callous pedestrians make cycling a highly stressful and risky activity in the capital, and cyclist communities have long wished for dedicated bicycle lanes, a common feature of many cities’ traffic system across the globe.
Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) is now making that long-cherished dream come true for many commuters. Work of a nine-kilometre bike lane is currently underway in Agargaon, the early results of which are now visible.
The route goes through the north side of Islamic Foundation, LGED Road and University Grants Commission.
According to DNCC officials, 285 metres out of nine kilometres of the road have been completed so far. There are three lanes on both sides of the median -- one for bicycles, one used as a street car parking facility, and one main lane for vehicular movement.
Width of the bicycle lanes -- which are being constructed on both sides of the road -- are six feet each.
Visiting progress work of the project on Thursday, DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam said, “There is no such road in Dhaka.. it [bicycle lane] is probably the first in Dhaka city. It’s a good news for bicycle lovers.”
“We have planted trees of different kinds and hopefully, the trees will add aesthetic value to this place within two years,” he added.
DNCC Additional Chief Engineer Sharif Uddin said, “The bicycle lane has been constructed keeping international standards in mind. Usually a bicycle lane is supposed to be five feet as per international standards, and but we have allowed six feet.”
“If we allow more width than this, other vehicles might try to get in the lane,” he reasoned.
The road is being constructed under a project funded by the government. However, the 285-metre stretch has been constructed by the direct funding of DNCC, informed the additional chief engineer.
There are three types of roads by width in the area -- 150 feet, 100 feet and 60 feet, of which the roads having the highest width will be under the three-lane system.
The work has been going on for the last nine months, and it will be completed before March 2020, said Sharif Uddin, adding that another bicycle lane stretching about one kilometre is under construction at Manik Mia Avenue under the same project.
Welcoming the initiative, Architect and former president of Institute of Architects Bangladesh Mubasshar Hussein said, “Parents can let children ride bicycles without any worry, as this lane is only for bicycles. This is an attempt to make a standard road in Dhaka city, and it is a wonderful initiative.”
He further opined that it is now important to keep the lane solely accessible for bicycles, and not only mayor but also police should be alert to ensure that the lane remains free for cyclists.
The cycling community of the city also welcomed the move.
Commending the step, Fuad Ahasan Chowdhury -- a representative of BDCyclists -- said, “Our community always wanted such initiatives by the government, and we are happy that the DNCC has come forward in making it happen.”
“The city corporation can also consider setting up another lane from Banani to Uttara in the future like the one at Agargaon,” he said, thanking the DNCC officials.