In Dhaka cycle rickshaws are the preferred mode of transport. CNGs (tuk-tuks, or auto rickshaws) are popular for longer trips, but for short trips of only a couple kilometers or less, cycle rickshaws are the go-to mode. They are quick, convenient, and cheap. The comfort is a matter of opinion, especially if you’re sharing with one or more adults. It’s also a rather bumpy ride. But they can be a lot of fun, swerving in and out of Dhaka traffic. And rickshaw drivers are usually reasonable about giving a fair price, but you do have to bargain.
The cycle rickshaw is so common that Dhaka, Bangladesh has been called the Rickshaw capital of the world. As this mode of human-powered transport is being phased out in other countries, in Bangladesh it’s only getting more common. It’s somewhat of a relief to Dhaka’s already polluted air that these 500,000 rickshaws aren’t belching out exhaust. It may be a strain for these butt-kicking rickshaw-walas, but they’re helping to save their city. Which brings up an interesting point. Most of the rickshaw-walas are not even from Dhaka.
Most are migrants from the countryside. The $50-some dollars they might earn cranking a cycle rickshaw is more than they would get farming back in their village. Their living conditions aren’t very good in the city, but most will put up with it for a couple weeks per month before going home.
The mechanism of cycle rickshaws has changed very little over the years. So too has the rickshaw art. Rickshaws are intricately covered in artwork. Although what was once painted by hand are now mostly cheap and fast screen-printed versions. Most depict scenes from the Liberation War or Dhallywood movie stars.
Even though it’s a daily necessity for millions of residents, catching a Dhaka cycle rickshaw is certainly one of the highlights for travelers in Bangladesh.