Cycle Rickshaws in Bangladesh: Heroes of the Roads

Rickshaw driver in Dhaka
Rickshaw driver in Dhaka

Dhaka has the craziest traffic I have ever seen- a real test of your patience and determination to get to wherever it is you’re going. The two most popular forms of public transport are CNGs or auto rickshaws and for shorter distances- cycle rickshaws. The CNG drivers are an adventurous bunch that take you on a safari of their own. But when the CNGs get stuck in bad traffic during peak hours, the cycle rickshaw riders turn out to be the real heroes.

There are many reasons why I love the cycle rickshaws. Firstly, although they constitute hard labour, they are environment friendly. They are also beautiful, adorned with unique rickshaw art, and lend great character and colour to the roads in Bangladesh. The pop art posters and shiny decorations on the back of the rickshaws are great to look at. The art differs from place to place, depending on which part of the country you are in. For example, the rickshaw art in Sreemongal is quirkier than that in Dhaka.

 

Cycle Rickshaws in Bangladesh: Heroes of the Roads

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So why are the riders heroes? Well, if you are in a CNG that is stuck in the middle of traffic on a road like Mirpur road, there is pretty much nothing you can do but wait. Your emotions during that long wait which could be anything from 40 minutes to 2 hours, will range from shock, frustration, restlessness and boredom to defeat. But if you are sitting in a cycle rickshaw that usually keeps to the left side or last lane (there is no such organized thing as a lane in Dhaka), and it gets stuck in traffic, the rider simply gets off and moves the cycle to the footpath and gets going.

It is not uncommon to see a line of cycle rickshaws moving along on the left when the other vehicles are stuck in what looks like a never ending traffic jam. Of course this means that it can be pretty chaotic for the people walking on the roads, but I guess they are just used to it. Seems like they are experts at dodging encroaching rickshaws. So in times of bad traffic, a cycle rickshaw will actually get you to your destination faster than a car or CNG. Plus, it’s always nicer to be in a high, open cycle rickshaw than it is to be huddled up in a CNG in the middle of a crowd of other CNGs, cars and buses.

Read more about my experiences in the country on my Bangladesh Travel Blog.

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