Saturday, 13 November 2010

Air Pollution

Cars pollute as soon as they are turned on, whether they are moving or sitting still in traffic. To blame air pollution on rickshaws because they slow down cars is outrageous. Even when moving smoothly and well-maintained, cars pollute; internationally, cars are the major polluters of our air and the major contributors to climate change. Worldwide, the most air pollution is created by the United States, not because their cars are slowed by rickshaws, or because their cars are poorly maintained, but because Americans drive so much. Cars pollute; lots of cars pollute a lot.

CNG is cleaner than other fuels, but as it is a carbon-based fuel, it still releases carbon dioxide into the air as well as the cancer-causing chemical benzene, for which no safe level of exposure is known. People travelling by foot, bicycle, or rickshaw arrive at their destination without contributing to air pollution; people travelling by a motorized vehicle, even a bus, contribute to air pollution. While the rich are the main sources of air pollution, everyone breathes the air.

Meanwhile, if the rich believe they are somehow immune to air pollution because they live with air conditioning, they might wish to remember that they too must breathe the same air that they are polluting; the more cars, the more they too will suffer.

Parking vs moving

Parking vs moving

Consider the case of Mirpur Road near New Market. One entire lane remains almost entirely unused. In front of New Market it is filled with parked cars; the rest of that lane is empty, except for some pedestrians, as drivers are used to the idea that it is a parking lot rather than a lane, and thus don’t use it.

But if the lane were converted into an additional rickshaw lane, where would car drivers park? If we assigned one parking area for private cars at any section of New Market, and charged per time used—for instance at 30 taka/hour—then two major changes would result:

1. Those who now park all day, and thus are the least efficient users of spaces per people benefited, would park for far less time, or use alternate transport to arrive and thus not park at all;

2. Those arriving from nearby would discover it is cheaper to take a rickshaw or walk, and would thus also arrive by other means.

Both these changes would reduce traffic congestion on Mirpur Road. This would also mean that far less parking spaces are needed, thus freeing up spaces for shoppers who wish to enter and leave quickly—and are more likely actually to make purchases than those who abandon their car for hours. Businesses would also benefit from the increased number of shoppers who will be able to arrive by rickshaws when the size of the rickshaw lane would double.

Syed Saiful Alam
Volunteer, Save the Environment movement, Dhaka

Suggestions for Improving Transport in Dhaka

Suggestions for Improving Transport in Dhaka

1. Maintain the use of rickshaws by
a) Canceling all planned bans on rickshaws from different roads;
b) Creating rickshaw-only lanes on major streets (including those that currently ban rickshaws), and
c) Considering a gradual shift to improved rickshaws that are easier to maneuver and more comfortable for passengers. If the rickshaw licensing system is to be maintained, set a higher level for the number of rickshaws, and base it on research into which all citizens can have input.

2. Cancel all plans for future flyovers, and use transportation budgets to improve public transit and conditions for NMT ( Non motorized transport) .

3. Make cars less affordable and available through reducing import of cars, raising registration fees and taxes, and restricting licenses.

4. Ban cars from small streets and lanes and from congested areas, and greatly reduce parking. Enforce a ban on parking on footpaths and on major streets.

5. Make cycling more safe and attractive by providing separate bicycle lanes on all major roads (creating a continuous cycle lane throughout the city) and by giving bicycles priority at traffic signals so they aren