National, Front Page

Transformation of rickshaw: Part – 1

From pedal to battery

Published : 11 Mar 2024 10:13 PM | Updated : 11 Mar 2024 10:15 PM

In the face of modern motorized auto-rickshaws hitting the 

streets, the traditional manually-driven rickshaws are finding it hard to survive and compete in a fast growing economy of 

Dhaka city.

In the fifties and sixties, rickshaws were one of the main public transports for travelling in short distances in all cities including the capital Dhaka. 

In such three-wheeled vehicle, the driver sat in front on a bicycle-like seat, one or two passengers sit behind, and the wheel is turned by pedals through chains and reached respective destinations.

The faster the rickshaw-puller pedalls his manual labour, the faster the rickshaw moves. With this pedal-power vehicle, the rickshaw pullers often also contest  each other on the roads.

On the side back of the rickshaw, images of cinema celebrities are often painted. Many signboard artists, painting such pictures, also got the opportunity to paint on the larger movie banners. 

Modernization of this rickshaw began in 2011 in Bangladesh. Battery-operated similar design rickshaws flooded many cities of the country putting conventional pedal rickshaws pullers at great risk.

 Batteries are attached to rickshaws to reduce the manual labour of the rickshaw pullers. The technology of turning the rickshaw wheel by rotating the motor with battery electricity was invented a long-time ago.

 The rickshaw steering (handle) has a small controller box with ignition (key) and brake. The driver drives the rickshaw with the start, controlling the speed. This rickshaw looks like a pedal-operated rickshaw. 

 Normal rickshaws are driven by pedals while the battery-operated ones run automatically. The battery is installed at the back, which helps these vehicles move automatically. 

 Imported auto-rickshaws that run on battery are also being used on the roads.

 Battery-powered rickshaws run faster than normal rickshaws. Due to high speed, the driver often loses balance and causes accidents.

 The battery-powered rickshaws can be seen running in the capital’s alleys, sometimes even on the main streets.

 Sometimes battery-powered rickshaws compete with CNG-powered auto-rickshaws, engine-driven cars, buses, and trucks.

 Nowadays, battery-powered rickshaws are moving right in the middle of the busy roads often driving carelessly. Sometimes it falls over without being able to handle the weight of the vehicle.

 Talking to battery-powered rickshaw drivers, it was learnt that this new vehicle can run at maximum speed of 30-40 km per hour.

 This speeding rickshaw does not have an effective control system. Most of the drivers are teen-aged boys. As a result, the vehicle often causes accidents.

 The number of battery-operated rickshaws is increasing tremendously across the country as there is no physical labour involved. 

 A regular rickshaw-puller needs to pay Tk 150-200 per day to its owner while Tk 350-400 has to be paid to the owner of an engine-driven rickshaw per day.

 At night, battery-powered rickshaws take a terrible form on the capital’s streets. Despite running on the alley during the day, battery-powered rickshaws run freely on the capital’s main roads at night despite a ban.

 After 8:00 pm in the night, the ferocity of uncontrolled rickshaws starts on every road. Continued until dawn. However, battery-powered rickshaws are running 24 hours a day in the alleys of the capital. 

 Saidur Rahman, executive director of Road Safety Foundation, said, “Battery-powered rickshaws run very fast. So it becomes uncontrollable and so very risky to ride. The vehicle is very dangerous. Causing small and big accidents almost every day.”

 “People with physical disabilities are allowed to use battery-powered rickshaws but now everyone is using them commercially,” he added.

 Selim Rubel, a battery-operated rickshaw driver, said, “With less public transport at night, the demand for battery-powered rickshaws increases. Apart from this, it is easy to avoid the eyes of the police as the road is not jammed. Getting on the main road makes it easy to get distant fares. It increases the income.”