Red light for ridesharing
While all other road transport services including buses and minibuses are about to resume operations from today, people planning on availing ridesharing services in the capital and other major cities will have to contend with bad news.
Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) has asked all rideshating service providing companies to keep their operations suspended until further notice, citing the country's Covid-19 situation.
"We sent the letter in this regard to all  service providing companies yesterday," Lokman Hossain Mollah, director (engineering) of BRTA told The Daily Star yesterday.
The letter did not mention any reason.
However, BRTA's Acting Chairman Yousub Ali Mollah said they decided to halt the operations as most vehicles under ridesharing services are motorcycles, and maintaining social distancing might be difficult for passengers and riders.
"If the situation changes, we will consider resuming this services," he told this newspaper.
Ridesharing services, which have gained massive popularity in the capital and a few other cities, were suspended from March 26 when the government enforced a shutdown of most public and private offices as well as public transport, to contain the spread of Covid-19.
On Thursday, the government announced the reopening of all offices and public transport on a limited scale while following necessary health safety guidelines from yesterday. Train and launch services have already resumed yesterday and bus services will resume today.
COMPANIES WANT TO RESUME OPERATIONS
Asked about the decision, Maliha M Quadir, founder and managing director of Shohoz, one of the major ride-share service providers, said the government should allow them to resume services.
"People will prefer ridesharing services to any other public transport at this time, because ridesharing is safer than buses and other public transports," she told The Daily Star yesterday.
Asked about the safety of motorbike services, she said riders and service seekers are both wearing masks, so the chances of virus transmission are low.
She said they got the letter on Saturday night, and would talk to other service providing companies before giving their response to BRTA.
Sayeda Nabila Mahabub, director (marketing and public relations) at Pathao, said commuting services with their app having been suspended for the past two months, they have observed that ridesharing has already resumed through offline, solicited trips.
"As such, ridesharing users are denied access to safe, secure rides with appropriate health measures in place, and are having to turn to more unsafe options like offline trips or to other forms of public transportation where social distancing cannot be properly maintained," she told The Daily Star.
"Therefore, in the greater interest of the health, safety, and convenience of commuters, we urge BRTA to allow the resumption of Pathao's ridesharing services on June 1, in line with its instructions for other forms of public transportation," she added.
She said Pathao has consistently been taking necessary steps in making sure that safety is ensured in these times.
Over the past two months, Uber has been urging riders and drivers to stay at home to help contain the spread of Covid-19. Now, as cities all over the world start to open, they remain committed to providing safe and convenient transport, an Uber spokesperson said.
"As we resume services in all the countries we operate in, we have instituted safety measures such as distributing PPE to drivers, building multiple layers of accountability in our app, including technology-led checks on mask use, safety checklists, limiting the number of passengers per vehicle and restricting geographies and times of operation as per relevant government guidelines," Uber said.
"Safety is our top priority and we have recently spearheaded the formation of a Transport Safety Alliance (TSA) to generate safety awareness amongst consumers, and to equip drivers with health and safety supplies. We hope authorities will allow Uber's ridesharing services that are safe and can effectively help our communities on the path to recovery" it added.