Every day 1,035 motorbikes are registered in the country on average and experts say if the authorities do not control the number of the accident-prone vehicle, the situation on the road can take a turn for the worse.
A significant number of these bikers do not have licence to ride.
Since the country's independence, 22.70 lakh motorbikes have been registered and 15.11 lakh of those had been registered between 2011 and July this year. But only 11.32 lakh riding licences have been issued since liberation.
And these are just the official numbers. A huge number of motorbikes ply roads of districts and upazilas and they have not been registered at all, according to transport sector insiders.
Transport experts and police found that motorbikes are more accident prone than three or four-wheeler vehicles and they tend to violate traffic rules more.
They said the hike in the number of bikes could be attributed to traffic jams and poor public transport system in Dhaka city, and nationwide economic development and expanded road network. Many prefer it as it can weave through and easily beat traffic.
FLOUTING TRAFFIC RULES
The tendency to violate traffic rules is seen the most among motorbike riders, said Mir Rezaul Alam, additional commissioner (traffic) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
Every vehicle is supposed to stop before the zebra crossing at intersections but motorcyclists often ignore this rule and cross the intersection, he said.
“It's difficult to control them. However, we are trying our best and already got some results. Now more than 95 percent motorcyclists and pillions use helmets,” he said.
During the last 10-day-long Traffic Week from August 5, police filed more than 83,000 cases against errant vehicles and drivers. Of them, around 44,000 cases were against motorbikes and 1,742 bikes were impounded.
At least 259 people were killed and 960 injured in 237 road accidents in 13 days from August 16 during the Eid-ul-Azha rush, according to Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity. Motorcycles were involved in 16.72 percent of the accidents, it said.
BRTA spokesperson Mahbub-E-Rabbani said it was not possible to stop plying of motorcycles that have been registered and it was normal to be concerned about the rising number of bikes.
“We are trying to ensure road safety by enforcing the law,” he added.
Rabbani, also the director (road safety) of the BRTA, said they have not been directed to control motorcycle registrations.
Noted transport expert Prof Moazzem Hossain said bikes are open and provide no protection to its riders.
He said due to a lack of quality public transport, the number of bikes are rising in the capital and the government would not be able to stop this unless it improves public transport services.
“Motorcycle is an unsafe vehicle. If the number of bikes increases, the situation will deteriorate. And, if the number increases in the city where the number of people is huge, the situation will take a serious turn,” said Moazzem, also a former director of Accident Research Institute (ARI) at Buet.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader on several occasions said motorcycles are “terror incarnated”.
Prof Mizanur Rahman, director of ARI, told The Daily Star on Wednesday most of the riders are young people, between 15 and 35 years of age, and they often speed and cause accidents, he said.
Fatalities in motorbike crashes will increase if the authorities do not stop the sharp rise in their numbers or train the riders. “The authorities should limit the number of motorcycles for road safety,” he said.
According to Bangladesh Road Transport Authority, 2.19 lakh motorbikes were registered in the first seven months of the year, 77.70 percent of the total vehicle registrations during that period. About 3.26 lakh (77.68 percent) motorcycles were registered in 2017, 3.32 lakh (79.74 percent) in 2016 and 2.40 lakh (47.83 percent) in 2015.
The rate of licence issuance has been increasing over the years. In the first seven months of the year, 2.17 lakh licences were given. At least 3.77 lakh were issued in 2017, and 2.17 in 2016, and 1.40 lakh in 2015, according to BRTA data.
The BRTA data shows that since 1971, about 4.95 lakh motorbikes were registered in Dhaka alone.
The number of motorbikes sharply rose in Dhaka recently mainly due to traffic jams as the two-wheelers take people to their destinations faster weaving through standstill traffic, said Sitangshu Shekhar Bishwas, director (operation) of the BRTA. Introduction of ride-sharing apps in 2016 is also a reason, he said.
In other parts of the country, people are enjoying improved economic conditions and the road network has expanded, allowing many to afford and use motorbikes, he said.
There are around 35 lakh registered vehicles of several kinds in the country.