Dhaka is known as the city of rickshaws. While going round the city you will find these rickshaws plying on the streets. With no fuel required and with no pollution at all, it is the most eco-friendly mode of transport.
The word rickshaw comes from the Japanese “jin riki sha,” which means literally “man-powered vehicle.” At least five people have been credited with inventing the rickshaw in Japan around 1870.
Originally rickshaws were hand-pulled vehicles, but are now applied to cycle rickshaws. This rickshaw is the result of advances achieved in the development of the bicycle in the 19th century.
By 1890, the bicycle had taken its modern shape, which meant that rickshaws too became easier to handle. Passenger rickshaws never achieved popularity in Europe.
Singapore was the first city to use cycle rickshaws on a large scale, which were introduced in Dhaka around 1938.
The rickshaws of Dhaka, specially their seats and back panels, are decorated with beautiful designs. Made locally, they help save a lot of precious foreign exchange.
They also contribute to a high degree to the national exchequer. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), the rickshaws contributed roughly 34 per cent of the total value-added by the transport sector in Bangladesh, or roughly Tk 9840 million. This was more than double the contribution of all motorised road transport, 12 times the contribution of Bangladesh Railways, and 12.5 times the contribution of Bangladesh Biman, the national airline.
Rickshaws account for more than half of Dhaka’s transport vehicles, 70 per cent of its passengers, and 43 per cent of the total passenger mileage. Every day, about seven million passenger trips are made in Dhaka by rickshaw over a distance of 11 million passenger-miles. This is nearly double the output of London’s Underground, wrote an expatriate who taught at one of the leading universities of the country. .
The rickshaw provides one of the largest sources of employment. In Dhaka, over 400,000 people make rickshaw-related work the largest single form of employment, taking in about 23 per cent of the city’s workforce. Over one million people all over the country find work in them. The great majority is pullers, but there are also repairers, owners, makers, shopkeepers, tea-stall owners and many others who survive on the basis of the rickshaw. Some 4.5 per cent of the total population depends directly on the rickshaws.
The rickshaw takes up only half the road space of the average car and can travel very close together. The average car passenger in Dhaka uses about 45 per cent more road space than the average rickshaw passenger.
A traffic count in Old Dhaka recorded 3500 rickshaws passing in one hour in one direction, yet the maximum number of cars that can pass down a similar road is only 1300 per hour. Allowing for their respective passenger loadings, the rickshaw can therefore transport about 50 per cent more people than cars, under similar circumstances.
So while in Dhaka, do take time to ride these rickshaws and take back sweet memories home. Scale models of rickshaws are available at some souvenir shops in Dhaka.