They are not only cheap alternatives to public transport, but they also allow their carriers to avoid crowds, such as those in a public buses, helping to maintain social distancing
Bicycle sales have seen a three-fold increase in the capital during the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The lockdown put a halt to all public transport, taking away the most common means of transportation for the majority of the people who were forced to leave their homes amidst the lockdown to make their livelihoods and for other reasons.
Bicycles offered a very convenient solution under the circumstances. They were not only cheap alternatives to public transport but they also allow their carriers to avoid crowds, such as those in a public bus, helping to maintain social distancing.
These factors made a compelling case for the purchase of bicycles to many citizens, boosting overall sales.
According to Bangladesh Bicycle Merchant Assembling & Importers Association (BBMAIA), the local market demands nearly 1.5 million bicycles a year, and its estimated yearly market size surpasses Tk4,000 crore. Bicycle sales has seen growth of around 10% to 15% every year since 2010.
Bangshal in old Dhaka is the biggest hub of bicycle trade in the country with around 150 shops. Ma Cycle Corner is one of them. Md Babul, proprietor of Ma Cycle, said: “In general, we can sell three to four bicycles a day on average. Since countrywide lockdown was imposed, we have been selling eight to 10 bicycles a day. Sales are still going strong.”
Ishak Arafat, proprietor of Sukkur Cycle Store, said: “Our sales volume has increased tremendously. All the stores in Bangshal area are selling more bicycles than ever before during the lockdown, which has even led to a shortage of supply in the local market. Local manufacturers as well as importers are struggling to meet the demand. We don’t have enough bicycles in stock.”
A sales man of Bikrampur Cycle Mart in the same area said: “Bicycles priced between Tk11,000 and Tk45,000 have the most demand. There are more costly bicycles in the market, produced by local manufacturers, worth between Tk200,000 and Tk300,000 per piece. But customers are reluctant to buy those due to the high price tag.”
Many traders said that the majority of the demand is met by the sale of imported bicycles which are relatively cheap.
Md Babul, a bicycle shopkeeper, said: “Customers want attractive models at low prices. Because of that all store keepers keep more than two-thirds of their stocks filled with imported bicycles. My shop does the same.”
Abdur Rahman, a customer looking to buy a bicycle in the area, said: “I have to go to my workplace every day by bus, which takes Tk40 each time. A bicycle could save me Tk1000 per month at least. Moreover, the bicycle offers me great flexibility compared to public transport. I can use it to go anywhere at any time.”
Another customer Raton Mondol said: “I fear travelling on public transport because of the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak. I think it is safer to use a bicycle.”
Though Bangladesh is mostly meeting its demand of imported bicycles, local manufacturers are still turning a big profit by exporting bicycles, according to traders.
In fiscal year 2017-18, the bicycle export industry earned $85 million with a growth of 3.97% compared to the previous fiscal year.