Written by- Neehan Rashid
It all starts when the training wheels on the cycle are taken off and you feel proud. Riding in a closed area like the garage of your apartment is not fun anymore and you want to start riding your cycle on the actual streets. You get that first ride in the open and you find yourself attached to the incredible experience. The feeling is addictive and that is exactly what cycling is all about. The passion, freedom and excitement involved is what makes it amazing. However, one can simply ask,
Do the streets of Dhaka have everything required for a perfect cycling experience?
And the answer would be yes, but it also has its drawbacks. Hence, we shall talk about cycling in Dhaka.
To begin with, Dhaka is densely populated and the streets are congested. This is why cycles are one of the most efficient and effective modes of transportation available in the city. However, riding a cycle in Dhaka can have its pros and cons. If we focus on the cons first and leave the good bits for the end, the first thing I would talk about is the lack of awareness. On the packed streets, one would be surprised if they found a motorist who respects or sees a cyclist as an individual. The most common thing a cyclist would face is constant horns from vehicles even though they are in their own lane. The noise is infuriating and what can be more frustrating is when your hand signals are deliberately ignored which can lead to a serious accident. The other problems a cyclist in the city faces on a day to day basis includes; extreme air pollution which can lead to a lot of health and respiratory issues. Most of the roads have bumps, potholes or are in devastating conditions which makes cycling in Dhaka constrained and stressful, whereas it is suppose to be calming. Without a proper cycle, Dhaka roads would be a nightmare to tackle and would also increase the possibilties of facing an accident and a terrible injury. On top of that, reckless motorists like bus drivers demotivate people from riding their cycles on the roads, due to the fear of calamities. However, among all of these cons there are some good aspects which motivate cyclists to continue their passion for cycling in this busy city.
With mass development taking place in the city and new infrastructure like bridges being built every year, cyclists in Dhaka have a lot of places where they can ride their cycles. One such road that is famous among cyclists, include Hatirjheel which is a series of bridges built right on top of Gulshan lake. If one comes early in the morning then they can enjoy some fresh air and the golden sunrise as they ride through the empty roads during the early hours. For cyclists who cycle their way to work, school and university, Dhaka roads can be a challenge specially during the rush hours. This is because there is no traffic order, pedestrians cross the streets randomly and the poor road conditions make it difficult to balance and maneuveur the cycle. However, this adds more challenge and makes every ride interesting allowing the cyclist to enjoy the ride rather than finding it a bore. The challenge also helps a cyclist to become better and eventually as they master their skills, cycling in Dhaka becomes more amusing rather than being nerve-wrecking. But this is my personal opinion and can vary from people to people.
On Fridays, many communities like BDCyclists carry out group rides to different regions of Bangladesh which also fulfills a cyclist’s desire to discover new places. The communities are also increasing the popularity of bicycle use among people as a form of daily sport, physical exercise and most importantly as a mode of transportation. Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) has even implemented the first ever bicycle lane project in the capital. It has constructed a 9.5km long lane exclusively for cyclists in Agargaon amid growing popularity of cycling. The route goes through the north side of Islamic Foundation, LGED Road and University Grants Commission. Hence as time goes by people in Bangladesh are becoming more aware about cycling. This is why road safety for cyclists is also slowly increasing allowing the growth of the cycling community. At the end of the day when someone tries cycling on Dhaka roads for the first time it would be a challenge, but I promise it always gets better but it takes time. Another thing cyclists must know, Dhaka is a developing country fiding new trends and communities. Hence as a part of the cycling community we need to make use of what we have and work on introducing new trends which would help grow the community further more. Doing this, would only allow us to experience what cycling truly has to offer in this country.