Speakers at a discussion on Wednesday said Dhaka needs to quickly create infrastructure to make cycling a safe and convenient mode of transport to meet travel demand while allowing physical distancing and avoiding a surge in air pollution.
Stating that cycling accounts for only 2 percent of trips in the capital at present, they also said cycling infrastructure will dramatically reduce traffic congestion if it leads to a significant increase in bicycle commuting, not just being limited to school trips.
They were addressing a webinar styled "The role of cycling in the coronavirus pandemic: Roll out infrastructure rapidly", jointly organised by the Institute of Wellbeing Bangladesh and the Carfree Cities Alliance Bangladesh.
A full infrastructure programme would include not just protected cycle lanes but separate routes and other amenities such as cycle parking and drinking fountains, they added.
Debra Efroymson, executive director at the Institute of Wellbeing, said, "We need to reduce dependence on automobiles to improve public health. The bicycle is a safe, convenient, affordable and healthy mode of transport that should be popularised and enabled through a high-quality cycling network."
Wealthy, modern cities around the world, including Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm, give priority to walking and cycling, he added.
Cycling ensures physical distancing and increases the quality of life in our cities. A cycling city would also create much-needed employment, he pointed out.
As a keynote speaker, Atiqur Rahman, programme officer at Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust, said, "We need to increase a modal share for cycling, and many benefits that would accrue to our cities if more trips were by cycling and walking."
Mahinur Aktar of Shoponocarini said she has been training women and girls for years to ride bicycles and that cycling is now popular among Bangladeshi females. However, she faces a major challenge in finding open spaces to teach cycling.
Amir Hamza of "Here We Play" said children need outdoor recreation and the chance to mix with others. Riding a bicycle would provide many benefits to children who otherwise have little or no opportunity to engage in outdoor activities, creative play.
Mahbubul Haq, executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Human Rights and Development, discussed the importance of walking and cycling as part of a disaster management plan in the future and the need to reduce taxes on bicycles.
Masum Billah, policy adviser to the Institute of Wellbeing, addressed the wellbeing impacts of walking and cycling, allowing for better health, a cleaner environment and affordable transport.