A two-wheeled blessing

Every day, Rubel Hossain, a staffer at Bangladesh Water Development Board, would get ready and keep on waiting for a bus to reach his Motijheel office from his Keraniganj residence. But the pandemic has changed his lifestyle, maybe for the better, as he started commuting on his bicycle for the last few weeks. 

"Due to increased bus fare and lack of social distancing on public transport, I bought the bicycle to commute every day," he said. And his bike solved both these problems, as he now commutes for free, and that too while being away from people.

Rashidul Islam, a resident of Nawabpur's Taherbagh, who bought his bike for Tk 8,200 from Old Dhaka, said, "It takes only 30 minutes to reach Keraniganj's Jinjira from the capital's Nawabpur on the two-wheeler, which would take around two hours by bus or boat."

Since he started commuting like this, life has become easy and smooth, although there are risks of accidents as there is no dedicated cycling lane, he said.

It is not only Rubel and Rashidul, many Dhaka city residents have bought these trusty two-wheelers to make them their main mode of transport, as it is faster, saves money and allows riders to maintain social distancing.

With increased demand, bicycle sales have also gone up by 10-15 percent at the capital's Bongshal, the main retail hub for cycles in the country, said local traders.

Earlier, demand for children's bicycles was huge, but since the pandemic, large quantities of bicycles were sold to adults, especially in May, they said.

But this craze has not only taken over the capital; across the country, demand has also increased.

Mosharraf Hossain, an NGO sales representative, recently purchased his bicycle for Tk 16,500 from Bongshal for commuting.

"I used bus and rickshaw for moving from place to place with my product samples, but now, I can travel on my bike, which will save me around Tk 250 every day," said Mosharraf, who goes to his Shahjadpur office from Hazaribagh and then to different areas.

Saiful Islam, owner of Kashfian Enterprise in Bognshal, said bicycles from Bangladesh, India and China are available there, but the Chinese ones are in high demand.

He said a huge number of residents purchased bicycles in May. Demand has slightly dropped in the capital but still good across the country.

Prices of Indian and Chinese bicycles have increased by around Tk 1,000, but prices of local ones did not change, he further said. The lowest priced bike was Tk 6,500, while the highest was Tk 25,000, he added.

According to traders at Bongshal and Kazi Alauddin Road, 70 percent of demand is fulfilled by imported bicycles, especially from India and China, and the rest by the local industry. There are around 200 bicycle shops (both wholesale and retail) in the two areas.

Joynul Abedin, chief operating officer of RFL Bike Industry, which manufactures and markets Duranta bicycles for both Bangladesh and European countries, said demands have slightly increased since beginning of the pandemic.

"Demand for bicycles for adults has increased, as many people now prefer to travel on them instead of public transport, but demand for children's bicycles has slightly dropped," he said.

Yearly transactions worth Tk 1,500 crore occur in the country's bicycle industry, 30-35 percent of which come from local companies, mainly RFL, a concern of PRAN-RFL Group, and Meghna Group, another local bicycle manufacturer and exporter, he said. 

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