Riders have seen losses in their income as authorities suspend motorcycle-based ride-sharing services
Although authorities have not made a decision on app-based motorcycle ride-sharing services, many riders were seen carrying passengers via verbal contract in Dhaka.
On Thursday, while visiting areas in the capital, including New Market, Mohammadpur, Kawran Bazar, Moghbazar, Tejgaon and Mohakhali, motorcycle ride-sharing drivers were seen seeking passengers on a verbal contract.
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, ride-sharing motorcycle riders urged authorities to reconsider their decision for the livelihood of the drivers.
A motorbiker, Md Masud Hasan at Kawran Bazar said on Thursday: “We are riding offline as online services are currently suspended. Today, city bus services have resumed, but I am riding with fear, as the police can stop us anytime.”
“There are fewer passengers than before. Earlier, I had 10-15 passengers per day, but now it is difficult to get five passengers daily. Yesterday, I earned Tk340 only. Today after riding for six hours, I have earned Tk870,” he added.
He hoped that in the coming days he would earn more.
Maliha M Quadir, founder of Shohoz, told Dhaka Tribune that about 70% of the people who offered ride-sharing services in Dhaka had come to the capital from other districts. Ride-sharing was the only means of income for about 50% of their riders.
“Those who worked with us to offer ride-sharing services earned a minimum of Tk20,000 a month. Now the sector has totally collapsed. Some are delivering parcels on bicycles, but only very few,” she added.
“We are planning to recover some of the losses this year by increasing food and grocery delivery services. Shohoz will introduce three different services within a few weeks,” Maliha further said.
Another moto-rider Badrul Alam from the same area said: “In fear of trouble from the police, I am only riding inside roads and alleys. My earnings have dropped 50-70% amid the lockdown, as no passengers are commuting. I earned nearly Tk 500 yesterday. Prior to the lockdown, I used to earn Tk1,000 per day.”
He also said that offline driving is risky for both riders and passengers, but there is no other way.
Khalil Ahmed Tipu, another rider from the New Market area said: “Today, ahead of Eid, people are coming out. But, previously, there were only a few passengers.”
Referring to the suffering of fellow riders, he said: “We are all on the same boat. Yesterday, I earned only Tk550. During normal times, I used to earn Tk1200-1300 or more in a day.”
Kamrul Hasan from the Jatrabari area has been unemployed since last year's pandemic job cuts, so he took to ride-sharing as a full-time profession.
He states: “Our families’ expenses have been managed by our ride-sharing income. The government should allow us to resume our services.”
“I’m uncertain how I will be able to pay my rental fare, as my ride-sharing earnings have dropped by 50-60% in this lockdown,” he added.
Pathao President Fahim Ahmed said: “We are in touch with authorities to examine the matter. As public transportation resumes, Pathao is committed to maintaining health, hygiene, and safety protocols in our rides.”
“We look forward to offering our drivers a reliable earnings platform as movement restrictions gradually relax and businesses reopen,” he added.
Bangladesh Bike Ride-Sharing Drivers Association’s assistant secretary Sohagh Ahmed told Dhaka Tribune: “We are having the toughest time amid the pandemic. We are yet to receive any assistance or aid from any organization or NGO. There were nearly 100,000 bike riders, but now it has dropped to 25 thousand.”
He said, “Since the beginning, we have been driving maintaining health guidelines, but new restrictions have badly affected us.”
He urged concerned authorities in the government to allow them to resume services for public benefit.
In the meantime, passenger’s welfare body Jatri Kalyan Samiti Secretary-General Mozzammel Haque said: “It is difficult to comply with hygiene rules on public transportation, but it is much easier to comply with them on motorcycles. Therefore, we demand the introduction of ride-sharing motorcycles adhering to hygiene protocols.”
He mentioned how ridesharing has established itself as the sole source of livelihood for more than 500,000 people in the country.
In a letter released in the first week of April, the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) instructed ride-sharing service providers to suspend ride-sharing services on motorcycles for two weeks due to increased coronavirus transmission.
The letter also requested riders to strictly follow the hygiene rules as per the guidelines for ride-sharing services in motor vehicles.
BRTA Chairman Nur Mohammad Mazumder said: “Drivers do not maintain distance from their passengers while riding on motorcycles. That is why we have ordered the closure of motorcycle-based ride-sharing services.”
On September 4, 2020, ride-sharing services resumed bike services in Dhaka after a 6-month suspension due to the pandemic.
On April 1 this year, the BRTA again suspended motorcycle ride-sharing services to maintain health-safety guidelines and social distancing.
About 371,093 motorcycles were registered in Dhaka between 2017, when ride-sharing services Uber, Pathao, and Shohoz were introduced, and February 2021. The highest number of motorcycles, 104,064, was registered in 2018.