The Gourhanga Railgate is the widest roundabout in Rajshahi city, providing at least 40-foot passage on each lane. Nevertheless, driving through the widest lane is made difficult by easy bikes, battery-powered three wheelers, occupying most of the space.
“Gourhanga intersection has enough space for parking. But they [easy bike drivers] ignore designated parking space and park wherever they want, making driving through the lanes stressful,” said Mohammad Ratan, driver of a private car.
Growing number of easy bikes, much higher than the need, and rampant violation of traffic rules by their drivers are causing frequent traffic jams in the city.
Ten years ago, traffic jams were rare in Rajshahi. Since the import of easy bikes from China began in 2008, traffic jams have become a regular occurrence.
When imported, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority refused to give these battery-powered three wheelers licenses for not having the requirements to ply the streets. However, Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) began providing licences, terming these “non-motorised vehicle”.
Rajshahi Metropolitan Police has estimated 10,000 easy bikes are sufficient for the city. RCC claims it has provided licenses to no more than 10,000 easy bikes, until they stopped giving license in 2012.
“Police administration pressured us to stop giving license after they found it difficult to control these vehicles,” said Abdul Hamid Sarker, a ward councillor and chairman of the Communication Affairs Standing Committee of RCC.
He said the corporation failed to curb the increasing number of easy bikes because of the prevailing unemployment problem. “People find driving easy bikes to be convenient,” he said, adding that the corporation has not yet organised any training for the drivers.
According to rough estimates of the corporation officials, the number of easy bikes in the city would not be more than 15,000.
However, dealers said they are selling at least 500 easy bikes per month and the number of these vehicles in the city would be higher than 30,000. They conveyed that availing license from the corporation after selling an easy bike is not a problem.
The corporation has raised the license fee to Tk 5,000 in 2016-17 from Tk 1,000 earlier and they would increase the fee in next fiscal year, said corporation officials.
Sarwar Hossain, license officer of the corporation, said the allegation of providing license is not true. “We're renewing some licenses and re-issuing the same licenses when the vehicles are damaged after three years of use,” he said.
“I want to follow traffic rules, but many of us are not following them,” said Ismail Hossain, driver of an easy bike.
“If I park on a designated space, I will not find any passenger,” he said.
He said sometimes they had to pay the traffic police fines, and in other cases, bribes for parking on the street.
Easy bikes are good for the city when their number is not exceeding the demand, Iftekhair Alam, an assistant commissioner of RMP's traffic department said.
“Controlling them is difficult when their number is high,” he said.