Experts have suggested that the authorities control the use of motorcycles, blamed for causing the highest number of road traffic crashes and fatalities across the country.
According to the experts the two-wheeler bikes are at least 30 times more accident-prone compared with four-wheelers.
Many western countries and some Asian countries, particularly Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia have already started encouraging the use of bicycles replacing motorbikes to reduce accidents, they said.
But no serious attention is being paid to control motorbikes in Bangladesh. Rather the government’s fiscal policy promotes these two-wheeler vehicles, claimed the experts.
With the increase of motorbikes on the roads the number of fatal accidents is also rising, said the experts.
The casualties in motorcycle accidents doubled in the last two years, according to the 2021 report of Road Safety Foundation, an organisation that campaigns for safe roads.
In 2021, a total of 6,284 people were killed and 7,468 others were injured in 5,371 road accidents throughout the country. Of them, 2,214 people (motorcyclists and pillion riders) were killed in 2,078 motorcycle accidents, which are 35.23 per cent of the total casualties and 38.68 per cent of all road accidents respectively.
But the total number of people who lost lives in motorcycle accidents was 1,462 in 2020 and 945 in 2019. Also the number of motorbike accidents was only 1,189 in 2019.
“According to science, two-wheeler vehicles are 30 times more accident-prone as compared to four-wheeler vehicles. It is well documented internationally. But the risk might be higher here in Bangladesh due to chaotic traffic and lack of safety measures,” said Prof Dr Md Shamsul Hoque, former director of the Accident Research Institute at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET).
Terming the motorbikes as a ‘curse’ on the road, he said the problem would be more severe in the coming days as the government’s fiscal policy promotes the risky vehicles instead of discouraging them.
“It’s time for our soul-searching and take steps to check motorbikes,” he said.
He said the two-wheelers have no balance and are very unstable, which causes accidents even due to speed breakers and small potholes. They face greater risks of being hit by large vehicles.
Its riders are mostly youths and teenagers who feel thrilled with speed and high-sound and love to ride recklessly, he said. Those who have fiancé and girlfriends prefer motorbikes with pillion seats inclined to the rider, he said.
Besides, motorcycle configuration and design are also attractive to youths, said Prof Hoque.
Since there is no shield for motorcyclists and pillion riders, they are killed, in many cases, by the second strike or run over by another vehicle on active roads, he said.
In many other countries, bicycles instead of motorbikes are promoted for the sake of the safety and healthy life as well as to prevent environmental pollution as two-wheelers are a major source of noise pollution, he said.
Another former ARI Director Prof Moazzem Hossain said the motorbike accidents are growing as these speedy vehicles, which are by-default accident-prone ones, are increasing in number, and simultaneously its riders are reckless in following traffic rules.
“Since the government could not ensure alternative reliable public transportation systems in the major cities, motorcycles are mushrooming in the country. A big policy mistake is here,” he said.
Prof Hossain suggested development of bicycle networks and lanes alongside developing planned public bus systems in the major cities and throughout the country. The government has financial capacity to introduce reliable and safe bus services here, he added.
General Secretary of National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways Ashis Kumar Dey said, “Increasing motorbike accidents have emerged as a matter of deep concern in the country.”
He mentioned unskilled and untrained riders, reckless riding, young riders, providing passengers and goods services by motorcyclists, laxity in following and enforcing laws and traffic rules as major causes for growing motorbike accidents in the country.
According to Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), the number registered motorbikes are more than 35 lakh. Nearly nine lakh of the registered motorcycles operate in Dhaka city alone.