More than just two wheels
In this bustling city, there's nothing quite as enjoyable as zipping through traffic with the wind in your hair. Manoeuvring between cars and buses that will be stuck long after you're already halfway home is a whole different feeling.
Such is the power of a motorcycle.
Recent graduate and bike enthusiast Nabid Muyammar believes that motorcycles provide the youth with an opportunity to own a vehicle in a market where cars are substantially more expensive.
"After graduation, specifically during the lockdown last year, I wanted to find a way for all of my friends to meet safely. The problem was that we live all over Dhaka and it's hard to just make plans spontaneously. At one point, a bunch of us saved up and bought bikes. Now we meet multiple times a week, even if it's just to hang out over a cup of tea. It's so much easier and I don't have to worry about a two-hour commute," says Nabid.
Another university student Nafiul Haq shares, "One of the things that helped me get through the pandemic was every weekend, a bunch of friends would just take our bikes and go riding through the city. Being able to stay safe, while riding through the city really helped us stay mentally healthy throughout the lockdown."
Probably one of the greatest things about being a bike owner, mostly in the context of Bangladesh, is the extensive community that exists. Much like the local cycling communities, the biking communities are significantly large and very active.
Having a closely interlinked community is great, mostly when fresh and young enthusiasts are on the fence about entering the lifestyle. I have noticed multiple friends who had no previous knowledge of bikes learn from Bangladeshi online communities about the different specifications and lingos surrounding bikes. Some community members helped them pick out the right motorbike; one of them even accompanied my friends to the store when they were making the purchase.
These communities also organise events regularly, where large groups of riders go on short or long journeys in places such as the Khagrachhari and Rangamati districts and Remakri, to name a few.
Motorcycles also carry an element of fashion, with different styles of bikes available to appease the needs of variety of riders. Accompanying the styling choices is the plethora of motorcycle gear that you can buy. Whether it's gloves, jackets or custom helmets, the level of personalisation that one can do with their bikes is endless.
Women have also been able to greatly benefit from using motorcycles. Public transport is not a safe space for women in general, and they can now easily gain access to safer transport at an affordable price in the form of motorbikes. The rise in popularity of "scooties" is a testament to this, as more women opt to switch to these smaller bikes over other forms of transport.
The biggest concern for most people, however, is the issue of safety. While in the case of Bangladesh, there is an absence of properly reported data on motorcycle crashes, the risks associated with motorcycles are generally well known. While the risk of road accidents is much more prevalent on highways, it is still a concern for those residing in major cities.
In the annual report of Nirapad Sarak Chai, it was reported that a majority of road accidents involved buses, with motorcycles only contributing to 19 percent of reported accidents as of 2019. This number had reduced from the previously documented 21 percent in 2018.
Nevertheless, there are definitely some positives to look at. Helmet regulations have become stricter, with the enforcement of fines. As a result, almost all bike riders, as well as passengers, now wear helmets to avoid being issued tickets. Traffic violations are also treated more strictly, with higher fines being imposed, further resulting in riders maintaining the laws of the road.
The prevalence of awareness is key, and the prominence of biking communities is helping new riders become more aware of how to ride safely.
"When I was just getting started, I was probably not the safest rider," says Shaer Ahmed, a community member, "Thankfully, after going on a few rides on the Mawa Expressway with a few big brothers from my area, I learned the importance of riding safely. New riders should all join any of the big communities, as everyone is really friendly and will help you learn without judging you."
"Riding a motorcycle isn't a feeling I can put into words. It's a culture; a lifestyle. The convenience of being able to park almost everywhere, along with a sense of brotherhood with other bikers on the street, is unlike anything you can get from other forms of transport," concludes Nabid.
Disclaimer: The Daily Star does not promote unsafe motorcycle riding practises on public roads. Trying these tricks could lead to serious injury, or even death. All stunts are performed by experts, and should not be tried without consulting a trained professional.