DHAKA: Traveling by carpool to work every day was never a problem for Shamia Nasrin Nipa, a 27-year-old resident of the Dhanmondi area in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
However, ever since a lockdown was imposed to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country, she said it became challenging to maintain social distancing rules and a sustainable way of transportation as well.
To cater to both requirements, she switched to using a bicycle to commute to her workplace, which is 7 kilometers away, and told Arab News on Saturday that “there’s no turning back.”
“My journey to and from office became a matter of huge concern as there were no ride-sharing services on the streets due to the antivirus measures. Moreover, public buses are not safe enough either, as they increase the risk of infection. So, my bicycle became my savior,” Nipa, who works for an advertising firm in the city’s Gulshan area, said. She is not alone. Several other commuters who spoke to Arab News said they found the humble two-wheeler to be the easiest and most affordable option.
“There were two options for me. Either I was buying a motorcycle or a bicycle. I chose the latter since it’s very cheap and environmentally friendly,” said 43-year-old Imran Ahmed, manager of a pharmaceutical company.
He added that despite his office providing a “pick-and-drop service,” he opted for the bicycle as it provided “much-needed exercise” as well.
The latest trend means the cash registers have not stopped ringing for bicycle suppliers, with some reporting a sudden boom in business.
“Bicycle sales have tripled in recent weeks. On average, I now sell 20 bicycles a day,” Human Kabir, owner of a bicycle store in the city’s Karwan Bazar area, told Arab News.
He added that while teenagers were his primary buyers, now people aged 25-60 were buying bicycles.
“People need to spend $125 for a decent bicycle. But for a bicycle of high quality, the price goes up to $350. In the local market, we have a demand of 1.5 million bicycle pieces per year,” Kabir said.
Bicycle enthusiasts said they were pleased that the two-wheeler was getting its due recognition.
Fuad Ahsan Chowdhury, a volunteer of the BDCyclist group, said that the mindset has changed for what was formerly considered a poor man’s mode of transport.
“In this pandemic period, the bicycle has become a very popular mode of transportation as there are fewer vehicles on the streets. Usually, Dhaka streets are not safe for bicycle riders due to reckless drivers,” Chowdhury, who is also an IT consultant by profession, told Arab News.
“Bicycle sellers are now struggling to meet the increased demand. Many stores are running out of stocks as imports are also hampered due to the pandemic,” he added.
To meet the increased demand, a new bike-sharing service was launched in three areas of Dhaka — Gulshan, Banani and Baridhara — on Sunday.
Commuters can rent a bike and deposit it at fixed points after reaching their destinations, Chowdhury said, adding that the move would help promote bicycle use in the country.
“Many countries in the western world have already adopted bicycle riding, considering their environmental and health benefits. The pandemic has created an opportunity for many of us to adopt this good practice also,” he said.