The city has more than 3 lakh cars occupying 70 per cent of the space on narrow streets. Worse, it has begun to experience a sharp surge of cars in the wake of a boom in ride-sharing services such as Uber
When all the major cities in the world were observing World Car Free Day on Sunday, 22 September, the city of Dhaka was reeling under its usual traffic gridlock. The city has more than 3 lakh cars occupying 70 per cent of the space on narrow streets. Worse, it has begun to experience a sharp surge of cars in the wake of a boom in ride-sharing services such as Uber.
With no intention to cap its boom, Dhaka, according to the latest estimates, has more than 60 cars entering its streets every day.
Meanwhile, more and more cities all over the world are banning cars from their streets in a bid to curb air pollution.
Madrid city centre restricted the entry of all diesel or petrol cars from last November. Several other capital cities are also clamping down on cars. Oslo has eliminated on-street parking, and has started converting roads into cycle-ways and pedestrian paths. Paris and Brussels have begun to follow suit. Others – including Mexico City, Athens and Rome – are planning to ban diesel cars.
On Sunday, London slapped a one day ban on cars from 12 miles of its roads from the central area of the old city.
All these cities observed World Car Free Day, an annual event that has become mainstream for over a decade. It offers the city authorities an opportunity to encouragecity commuters to indulge more in walking and cycling. Studies show that car pollution contributes around 20% to the world's carbon dioxide emissions. A recent Oxford study found that around 10,000 people die prematurely in Europe each year due to pollution from diesel cars alone.
European cities are leading the march against the car frenzy that began at the turn of the previous century.
Recently, Madrid restricted access to gas-powered vehicles made before 2000, and diesel vehicles made before 2006. In 2020, older diesel and gas-powered cars won't be allowed to enter at all.
The mayor of Paris has declared the first Sunday of every month as car-free.
Oslo, the Norwegian capital planned to permanently ban all cars from the urban core — an initiative that one conservative party politician called "a Berlin wall against motorists." The city is on a mission to become carbon neutral by 2030, and restricting vehicles is a key part of its goal.
Last October, half the roads in London's city centre were dubbed "pedestrian priority" zones. The new measures are part of an ambitious plan to reduce traffic in the Square Mile — London's urban core — which sees around 480,000 daily commuters.
The cities of Brussels, Rome and Milan also have restricted cars to varying degrees.
In comparison, Dhaka may be dubbed as a safe haven for cars. The situation is aggravated by the rise of ride-sharing services. Recent estimates suggest that more than 1.25 lakh vehicles, including cars and motorbikes, are running under 6 different ride sharing companies, Uber and Pathao being the market leaders. Authorities say that10,000 vehicles get registered for ride-sharing servicesevery month.
Officials of ride-sharing companies admit that Dhaka has shown a peculiar turn in the structure of the service. The original idea of ride-sharing all over the world was that it would mobilise existing vehicles which sit idle on parking lots. Instead, Dhaka finds more and more people buying new or reconditioned vehicles exclusively for ride-sharing use. People are taking it asa new sector in which to invest money.
There are reports that vehicles from outside Dhaka are being brought into the city to join the already ballooning volume of cars.
On Sunday, the city of 12 million observed Car Free Day. The Dhaka Transportation Coordination Authority (DTCA), a body that has the onus of modernising the transportation system of the metropolis, organised an event on Manik Mia Avenue. They made the busiest thoroughfare in the city off-limits to cars for several hours, making the already crippling traffic congestion even worse.
One disgusted commuter sitting for hours in his vehicle nearby noted in his Facebook post that the organisers who observed Car Free Day all came to the venue in cars, and parked them on the streets.